Watertown arena deficits compared to golf course’s projected operations

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The Watertown Municipal Arena has continued to lose money ever since the renovated facility re-opened in 2016, with an operating loss that exceeded $450,000 last year.

City Comptroller James E. Mills acknowledged that the arena — home of hockey organizations, concerts and figure skating shows — will never make money.

In the past seven years, the city ice rink has lost more than $2.4 million.

That doesn’t include the annual debt that the city pays on the cost of renovating the ice rink, City Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero pointed out.

Last year, the city paid $600,000 on the 25-year bond it owes, she said. With the operating losses, that totals about $1 million for the year.

The city also uses its occupancy hotel tax that it gets every year to help pay down on the arena’s debt. Since 2017, the city has applied $1.3 million of its bed tax money to pay toward the facility’s debt.

After a series of costly change orders, the arena renovations ended up costing $10.8 million, with the city still owing about $8 million on the project. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilwoman Ruggiero brought up the amount of money that the arena loses to make a point about the recent purchase of the Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million from owner Michael E. Lundy.

With the negative publicity surrounding the purchase golf course, Councilwoman Ruggiero thought “it was interesting to point out” how much the arena has been in the black since its opening seven years ago.

She’s been criticized for voting for the golf club purchase because of its cost.

In comparing the $1 million deficit for the arena, the golf course is projected to be $286,000 in the hole for the first two seasons that the city will run it.

“That’s probably three times the amount of the golf course,” she said.

The arena deficit also will be about twice as much than it’s going to cost to run the golf course and operate three pools in the city, she added.

While she believes that the arena was a worthwhile project that provides popular programs for city residents, she said it often costs money to offer those kinds of amenities to city residents.

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