Amherst's Pepsi Center racked up a $547,000 operating profit last year, continuing an upward trend that began when the town took over as manager of the ice skating facility two years ago.
And there's more good news. This year could be even more profitable because the center will host more than a dozen national and regional hockey and skating events, Assistant Recreation Director Erick Guzdek told board members Monday.
One of the events -- the USA Hockey National Championships -- is projected to bring about $5 million in business to area hotels and restaurants between March 28 and April 1, Guzdek said.
Guzdek, who is credited with leading the Pepsi Center's financial about-face, said the center's earnings have allowed the town to reduce its operating subsidy by two-thirds under the town's management.
"This means that instead of costing each Amherst taxpayer $1.91 a month, the center now requires a subsidy of about 63 cents a household per month," he said.
Town Board members praised Guzdek and other town workers for the turnaround and for demonstrating that town workers can match or exceed private companies in providing services to residents.
There was no talk of profits at the Pepsi Center three years ago, when SportService ran the skating complex.
Following a series of reports by The Buffalo News regarding problems at the center, Council Member William L. Kindel filed a Freedom of Information request for documents and financial records.
The reports showed that as many as 12 town maintenance workers spent all or most of their working hours at the center, but they were not listed on the center's payroll.
As a result, the board created an enterprise fund for the center and accepted a proposal calling for the Recreation Department to assume management.
"Overall, I felt that, with the right people in charge, we could save the taxpayers money and run a facility with better quality services, and we're doing that," Council Member Shelly Schratz said.
In other action, Town Comptroller Frank Belliotti told board members that if current trends continue, the town will have to come up with more than $2 million to plug budget gaps in last year's spending plan.
The gaps were caused by under-budgeting for 2006 medical insurance and energy costs, Belliotti said.