Upstate Ice Plex joins Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber

PHOTOGRAPHER:

From left: Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anne Boles looks on as Tim Rizzo and the rest of the board of directors for the nonprofit Upstate Ice Plex cut the ribbon on the organization’s chamber membership, during a fundraising event held at the Eccentric Club in Gloversville on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

GLOVERSVILLE — The recently formed nonprofit “Upstate Ice Plex” (UIP) conducted a fundraiser and ribbon cutting ceremony for its membership in the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce Thursday night at the Eccentric Club.

The gathering featured a number of elected officials, business leaders and youth sports officials, who voiced support for the entity’s proposal to build an estimated $35 million nonprofit winter sports complex somewhere in either Fulton or Montgomery County.

“What drew me here, was this is community-based with a lot of strong support, with a lot of community members who are pillars of the community,” said Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charlie Potter. “The tourism dollars this could generate will only help the area.”

Upstate Ice Plex founder Tim Rizzo, who also serves on the Town of Johnstown Town Board, organized the fundraiser Thursday night, which was called the “UIP Annual Puck Drop,” to help support the nonprofit’s goal of raising $50,000 this year, which would be a 50% match for a $100,000 grant through New York state’s annual Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process.

Kevin Capobianco, who serves on the UIP board of directors, said organization has raised about $10,000 so far.

Rizzo said they raised about $2,800 at Thursday night’s event, which included a raffle.

Capobianco said the Upstate Ice Plex concept has some similarities to the Parkhurst Field Foundation’s multi-million dollar project to build a premier Little League tournament baseball stadium as a Northeast regional tourism destination. He said the Parkhurst project, which in recent years has expanded and advanced with more than $1 million in state and federal grant funding as well as private donations, was started 10 years ago, it broke ground on new construction within the last year. He said the Upstate Ice Plex could achieve the same results.

“I want to get on their coattails, because I want this community to thrive,” Capobianco said to the people gathered at the fundraiser.

The Upstate Ice Plex, which has a logo with the letters from the group’s acronym “UIP” over a black circle resembling an ice hockey puck, is hoping to get the state grant to pay for a proforma concept report, a document that attempts to create a sound hypothetical financial statement that makes reasonable assumptions about the future revenues and values associated with a potential business venture that doesn’t exist yet.

While Rizzo said UIP was not awarded either of the CFA grants it applied for in 2022, one for $2 million and other for $25,000 matching funds, he said state economic development officials are encouraging the group to continue its efforts.

“We had a conference call on the state level, where they’ve reviewed everything we have currently, so basically we need to get to the point where they can hand us the match,” Capobianco said. “We’re shooting for more, but that’s the bottom line, they said we’ve got to get to [the matching level for the proforma concept report], but they’re telling us they want to give us the money, and they want to see us go forward.”

The Upstate Ice Plex plan received a boost when U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY, included a request for $6 million in federal funding, one of three Fulton County economic development projects she supported totaling $16.5 million for consideration as part of the federal government’s 2023 budget.

Rizzo said that while the federal funding hasn’t been approved yet, he’s communicated with Gillibrand and with the office of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, and he’s hopeful federal support will be available as UIP continues its fundraising efforts.

Rizzo has said the Upstate Ice Plex concept for a winter sports complex was inspired by a project proposed in the late 1990s by retired art teacher Mary Jean Cleland, who was going to donate 50 acres of land to an entity called “Wilderness Inc.” that had gone through some of the regulatory steps to try to build a similar idea. Ultimately, it did not happen.

Cleland’s land donation is no longer available for the idea, and instead it was given to support the creation of a search and rescue team, members of which attended the fundraiser Thursday night to honor Cleland.

Tom Dugan, vice president of the New York state Amatuer Hockey Association (NYSAHA) attended the UIP fundraiser. He said more ice rinks capable of supporting winter sports like ice hockey are desperately needed in the area between Utica and Schenectady to help the approximately 3,000 young people who participate in the Capital Region’s chapter of NYSAHA, which is a feeder-program for U.S.A. Hockey. He said he’s very hopeful the Upstate Ice Plex will eventually be built.

“This is a wonderful thing, because it would create more hockey opportunities, more skating opportunities — hockey is a tough sport, and we’ve seen two rinks close within the Capital District within the last few years,” he said.

While Capobianco said he anticipated UIP will have another major fundraising event in the spring, in the meantime, he encourages people who want to support their efforts to go the group’s website, upstateiceplex.org.

 

 

 

 

 

By Jason Subik

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