Meakin: Fight for ice arena not over yet

Greg Meakin actually feels relieved that his financial struggles are now public record.

Last week, Meakin, the owner and managing director of the Bremerton Ice Arena, was served foreclosure papers from the project’s financiers, Joanne and Chuck Haselwood. Meakin’s wife, Deborah, is the co-owner of the ice arena.

According to the foreclosure notice, Meakin was four months behind on his payments to the Haselwoods to the tune of about $450,000. The foreclosure was filed in Kitsap County Superior Court.

In addition to being behind on the mortgage payments, the Meakins also owe 11 subcontractors more than $600,000 for contruction work on the ice arena. In all, the foreclosure is suing for $4.5 million, which is the cost of the entire loan, plus interest.

Meakin said the stress of keeping the ice arena’s financial problems under wraps was beginning to wear on him. Now that the foreclosure is public record, it is easier for him to discuss how the problem came to be and what it would take to fix it.

He’s also telling those who ask not to discount him or the ice arena.

“People are looking at me like it’s the end,” Meakin said. “It’s just the beginning.”

The financial worries began early on, when the ice arena was still in the idea phase. The ice arena was supposed to be located at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, but area residents were opposed to the idea. Meakin had already spent money on the planning phases, so once the location fell through, he lost the money.

The city of Bremerton then stepped in to offer a space on Homer Jones Drive, where the ice arena is located.

Construction costs were more than Meakin estimated and he was unable to pay some of the contractors for the completed arena. Because the construction costs were still looming over the arena, once the arena opened to the public, Meakin was already in financial straits. The funds coming in from the day-to-day operations weren’t enough to cover the mortgage payments and the operational costs.

Meakin believes there is a solution, which would come in the form of an investor group or a bank to refinance the loan. That would give him a clean sheet of ice and allow him to pay off his contractors and focus on the operation of the ice arena.

“This is one of those rare situations where money can actually fix something,” Meakin said. “I believe the ice arena onto itself is a successful business and it has been from day one. This is simply a case of a regular guy who didn’t have deep pockets and didn’t have room to make mistakes.”

City Attorney Roger Lubovich said the federal government gave the city the land to use for recreational purposes. The city and the ice arena operate under a concesssion agreement rather than a lease, which loans the land to the ice arena for 10 years with extensions up to 50 years.

The concession agreement states there are several requirements the ice arena must meet to keep its end of the agreement: The arena cannot be closed for more than 30 days; the building must be an ice arena; and there can be no liens against the property.

“It’s a nice arena and obviously, the city doesn’t want to see it closed,” Lubovich said.

In a worst case scenario, the city is capable of running the arena, but it would be tough because the city is facing financial restraints of its own, Lubovich said.

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