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Will new ice rinks get built in Hamburg?

Hamburg's quest for a $30 million sports complex seems to have limped to a quiet ending, with the town and a developer acknowledging their public private partnership was short-lived.

But there could still be a new ice rink in the town's future.

While the town has not heard from the Kaleta group and the HITS Foundation since April on its own proposal to build twin ice rinks and a multi-sport field at the site of the former McKinley Park Inn, the foundation said Tuesday its project is "moving forward." The group, which includes former Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, appeared before the town Planning Board in April, and was to return when it was ready to file a site plan. It has not returned.

The Kaleta group affirmed its continued interest in the Hamburg project hours after the Town Board terminated a contract with a competing developer, Sportstar Capital of Toronto, Monday night.

Hamburg had twin proposals for twin ice rink and sports facilities for nearly a year, although the Kaleta group's is a private project and the now terminated Sportstar project was to have been a public-private venture.

"There's been no talk about the sportsplex in months," said Councilman Thomas Best Jr., who voted against designating Sportstar as the developer and had questioned aspects of the project.

The town received a bill for $145,000 from Sportstar several weeks ago when it appeared that its partnership with the town would not move forward. Marty Starkman, president and founder of Sportstar, said it seemed as though the town did not want to go forward. He submitted the bill for $145,000, as stipulated in his agreement with the town. That includes $110,000 for a demographic analysis, $15,000 for a feasibility and financial analysis, and $20,000 to secure a letter of intent to buy the property.

The town never accepted Sportstar's feasibility study as complete, but Starkman said he is owed the money. Under the agreement, the town was to pay Sportstar the money if the studies were performed and the project was never built.

"I was there for two years — two years and all the meetings, all the groups we met with and all the studies that were done," he said. "The town signed a deal and I expect them to honor it."

Starkman asked what he was to do, when the Hamburg Hawks Hockey Association, one of the largest potential users, decided to commit to renting ice at the Kaleta group's proposed rinks, not at his.

"In the end, I think the user groups want Kaleta to build one, so let him build," Starkman said.

Board members said the town received Starkman's letter and invoice a few weeks ago, and the town attorney recommended formally terminating the contract.

"We didn’t say we weren't doing it, and we didn't say we were were doing it," Best said. "We didn’t say either."

Best said the new Town Board — there will be four new members Jan. 1 — should see what progress the Kaleta group is making. The town also has to decide what to do with its aging rink at the former Nike Base on Lakeview Road, he said.

Starkman remains skeptical that any new rink will be built soon in Hamburg.

"I believe that a year from today the Kaletas will not be building," he said.

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