‘Heck of a deal’ needed to sell, arena authority chair says

Last updated: May 08. 2014 10:42PM - 2431 Views
By - jlynott@timesleader.com

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An offer hasn’t yet been made for the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, but one could be coming from a former area businessman living out of state, said the head of the authority appointed to oversee the facility.

Donna Cupinski, chair of the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority, said talk of a possible buyer came up last week during a special meeting about a construction project at the 15-year-old facility in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Cupinski said a man who did not give his full name asked for five years worth of financial information on the arena and was told to fill out a Right to Know request.

“I’d like to say the arena is not for sale,” Cupinski said Thursday. “But it would be irresponsible for us to say ‘Yes ’ or ‘No’ because we haven’t seen the offer.”

“It would have to be one heck of a deal,” she added.

The man who attended the meeting last week asked not to be identified and said he’s friends with the prospective buyer from Virginia.

The man said he would make the request for the financial information at the authority’s meeting on Wednesday.

At this point he’s “just laying the groundwork” and an appraisal and inspection of the arena also would be necessary to get a better picture of the facility and it’s worth, he said.

The arena was appraised at $65 million in the countywide reassessment that went into effect in 2009, Cupinski said. The value likely has increased since then.It also owes $27 million in construction debt, she said.

The county’s hotel tax that was enacted in 1996 has been paying down the more than $22 million in bonds issued to finance the construction.

Voters opposed a ballot question on whether the county should guarantee the bonds, leaving the authority that owns the facility to seek private funding. The county’s sole role is to appoint authority members and “(its) job is done,” Cupinski said. If the arena is sold to a private owner the tax would have to be eliminated, Cupinski explained.

The 5-percent overnight room tax also funds the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau; 20 percent of the revenue goes to the bureau and 80 percent is directed toward the bond payments.

Cupinski said the arena has undergone repairs and renovations to stay competitive with other venues such as the Sands Bethlehem Event Center and the arena under construction in Allentown.

The authority is still considering an expansion and has yet to decide on how to fill the space, Cupinski said.

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