$125 million second phase Binghamton arena project envisaged following $58 million first phase

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Image from WBMG-TV

The planned $125 million second phase of the Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton was one of the largest projects in the nation to enter construction planning in August, Dodge Data & Analytics has reported. This is in addition to the project’s first phase, expected to cost $58 million.

Arena manager Chris Marion told local broadcaster WBNG in August that proposals for the arena have been in the works since September of 2019.

“About a year ago we started working with the firm Perkins and Will and community stakeholders, users of the building, tenants and our own staff knowledge on what we wanted to see accomplished in this building,” said Marion.

The result was a renovation proposal costing upwards of $180 million.

Marion says phase one would involve improvements to the arena’s current space, the broadcaster reported.

“What we’re looking at is fan experience enhancements,” said Marion. “Everything from food and beverage to entrance to exits. To where the locations of the restrooms are.”

“We understand that it is a big number but that is everything everyone wanted to see,” he said. “We put that all together, we projected it out a few years so we’re looking at inflation. We’re also looking at renovating a building while it’s still being used over a multi-year period so all of those things add cost.”

Marion says the $125 million phase two stage is a more transformative project for the region. “The phase two part is further down the road and much more expensive.”

Phase two would bring in a second ice rink and a convention center linked to the Arena. Marion said both would expand the amount of activities able to take place downtown, such as e-sports, additional tournaments and another spot for the AHL team to practice, the broadcaster reported.

Phase two would also bring an addition hotel downtown, along with a new riverfront park system along the Susquehanna River.

“We would love to do them all together. I don’t know if the funding is going to be there for something like that,” he said, noting that it is tough to set a timeline because funding isn’t currently in place.

Marion couldn’t set a timeline for the project’s completion. “When we started this it was pre-COVID,” he said. “We would be much further along in this. Spending priorities have changed.”

“It’s a complicated system but one we feel is worthwhile if it results in a Veterans Memorial Arena that the community can use for the next 50 years,” said Marion.

Marion said he does not see a formal submission in the immediate future, but he’s eyeing 2022 which is when a number of the arena’s contracts are up, WBNG reported. “We feel if we can secure funding between now and then we can leverage that into longer and better contracts with our main tenants, which all result in more money coming into this building, he was quoted as saying.

Nationally, The Dodge Momentum Index increased 1.8% in August to 126.5 (2000=1000) from the revised July reading of 124.2. The index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. In August, the commercial component rose 3.3%, while the institutional component moved 1.2% lower.

The August increase in the overall Momentum Index is the second consecutive rise and a further sign that the construction sector continues to post a modest recovery following the large declines in April and June. This recovery, though, is uneven. The commercial component has risen 9% from its June low and is just 13% below its 2018 peak fueled by increased planning activity for warehouse and office projects.

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The institutional component, however, has declined for five consecutive months and has yet to hit bottom. The institutional component is now 34% below its recent peak. The public side of the building market is suffering as state and local government revenues have declined, creating budget cuts across the country. This has led to a significant pullback in education projects entering planning, placing substantial downward pressure on the institutional component of the Momentum Index.

In August, 11 projects each with a value of $100 million or more entered planning, including the Mebane project. There also will be a $200 million Amazon distribution center (Project Star) in San Antonio TX. The leading institutional projects were the $150 million BayCare South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City FL and the Binghamton arena.

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