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Stimulus check may have helped arena

ALPENA — Northern Lights Arena, where managers once described finances as “shaky,” did not request supplemental funding from the county’s Youth and Recreation fund this year, despite arena managers indicating earlier this year they needed to do so.

Alpena County Commissioner Brad McRoberts said the arena’s management firm, Northern Lights Arena-Community, received $36,000 from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which McRoberts said may have led the management group to believe it could get by on the funds it has.

The county owns the arena, site of numerous community events in Alpena, and contracts with the Community group to manage it. The Paycheck Protection Program was part of Congress’ stimulus package to help the country overcome economic shutdowns meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The arena is closed because of the pandemic, and McRoberts said it may not reopen until October.

Calls to arena manager Jeremy Winterstein were not returned this week.

Like the Plaza Pool, which is also owned by the county, the arena has struggled financially, but has been able to keep its doors open.

Last year, the county took issue with the lack of transparency on the part of arena managers, who were not submitting monthly financial reports as required by the contract between the two parties. The arena had also fallen behind on its $3,261 monthly payment toward bond debt taken on by the county for energy efficiency improvements at the arena.

County Treasurer Kim Ludlow said the monthly reports have been showing up to her office on time and the bond payments are now up to date.

Still, Ludlow said the reports don’t show a running, cumulative total of finances, which makes it hard for the county to get a clear picture of the financial condition at the arena.

Ludlow said a financial report filed at the end of May showed total revenues of $9,300 and expenses of $22,965. That means the arena lost $13,665 in May.

The reports show $6,800 of the arena’s May income came from facility rental fees and the balance from donations. Currently, both sheets of ice at the arena are down and the arena is storing conveyors made by a local company.

Asked if she believes the arena is doing better financially, Ludlow said that, if it is, she is unsure how.

“They aren’t bringing anything in, and the county isn’t getting anything in terms of the surcharge money” from ticket sales, Ludlow said. “Right now the county is receiving zero.”

A dollar from every ticket sold at the arena is given to the county for repairs, replacements, and maintenance of the facility.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com

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