One man's decades-long quest to bring a roller-skating rink to Atlantic City has gained some traction as he and representatives of management firm United Skates of America have asked a state authority to consider funding a rink.
At a meeting of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority last week, Atlantic City resident Ernest Conner and United Skates talked of the possibility of taking over Flyers Skate Zone. The ice skating rink located on Albany Avenue is owned by Comcast-Spectacor, also the parent company of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Something needs to be done for the locals of this city, the children. These are roller skating people here, and it's something families can do together," said Conner, who has lobbied city administrations since the 1980s in hopes of building a rink. "It's something I will not cease until I find I cannot go any further."
United Skates and Conner appeared before the CRDA and spoke of the possibility of seeking financing. However, no formal application has been filed, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said.
Both Comcast-Spectacor and United Skates acknowledged that meetings have taken place but were careful Tuesday not to commit to any definite plans regarding the future of the rink.
Last year, Conner approached United Skates, which operates Millennium Skate World in Camden, about the possibility of coming to Atlantic City. The parties then met with CRDA. United Skates also had discussions with Comcast-Spectacor in which ballpark prices were discussed, United Skates President Jim Dvorak said.
All parties declined to release any financial information discussed.
Comcast-Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman confirmed that an inquiry was made but stressed that the company has no immediate plans to leave the site. The firm was also recently awarded a contract to manage Boardwalk Hall, but that award has been held up due to legal concerns from a competing company.
"From time to time, people do contact us to inquire about purchasing our various businesses. We did have an inquiry from Jim Dvorak about a year ago, and it was very informal," Richman said. "At no time have we been actively trying to sell the facility."
Public skating attendance is up 20 percent over last season, he said.
Flyers Skate Zone was constructed in 1999 at a cost of $4.5 million. About $2 million was provided by a CRDA grant with Comcast-Spectacor providing the remainder of the funding. CRDA also contributed some marketing and programming costs. Within two years, Comcast-Spectacor was receiving buyout offers, but the company insisted it had no plans to sell the building.
Both Conner and Dvorak stressed the benefit a roller-skating facility could have in Atlantic City.
“It's an underutilized family entertainment center. Cities all over the country have installed things that children and families can use together or independently. Atlantic City is in need of that,” Dvorak said. “The ice is very underutilized.”
Dvorak’s Camden facility sees 150,000 visitors annually.
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