First Arena operator sues county, former GM
After months of foreclosure and management issues at First Arena in Elmira, its operators have now filed lawsuits against the county, county officials, and the arena's former general manager. Our Lara Greenberg spoke tells us about the ongoing battle that surrounds the hockey rink.
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ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Mismanaged money, stolen documents, and a filthy facility. The Afr family, which operates First Arena, blames former general manager Robbie Nichols for all of it.
"Mr. Nichols purposely and intentionally tried to sabotage the arena and the Jackals for his own personal gain. I mean when they arrived, taxes weren't paid, utilities weren't paid, insurance had lapsed," said the Afrs' attorney Jim Parks.
The county foreclosed on the arena last month because of unpaid taxes. The Afr's say that was Nichols' responsibility.
Now they're suing Nichols and former employee Donald Lewis for sabotaging the Jackals by transferring sponsorships to the Elmira Pioneers, which Nichols' wife and Lewis own.
Nichols and Lewis deny those allegations.
"They never wired in money and told me to pay money, pay their taxes. If it was there...I would have definitely paid it. I was with them 6 years and I love the Jackals and I still love the Jackals," said Nichols.
"Just because they sponsor the Jackals don't mean they can't sponsor another team or venue or anything like that," said Pioneers President Donald Lewis.
The Afr's are also suing the county, requesting permission to repurchase the facility. The county tabled their repurchase offer earlier this month.
A new general manager was named to First Arena, and as they set up for an event, he says it's time to look past these lawsuits and look ahead toward Jackals hockey and the potential of this arena.
'I think with everybody working together, the ownership, everybody in the community, this place is a gem," said new First Arena General Manager Matt Hufnagel.
A gem that has a lot of of cleaning up to do before it sparkles like it once did.
Neither Nichols nor Lewis have been served, as the lawsuits were just filed Thursday. Nichols says the Afr's owe him money as well.
County representatives did not want to comment because the lawsuit is pending.