First Arena

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First Arena
Entertainment First
Former names Coach USA Center (2000–2004)
Location 155 North Main Street
Elmira, New York 14901
Owner Elm Arena LLC[1]
Operator Elm Arena LLC[1]
Capacity 3,784 (ice hockey)[2]
Surface Multi-surface
Broke ground November 24, 1999[3]
Built 1999-2000
Opened November 11, 2000
Construction cost $16 million[4]
($22 million in 2016 dollars[5])
Architect BBB Architects Ltd.
Services engineer The Mitchell Partnership, Inc.[6]
General contractor Welliver McGuire[7]
Elmira Jackals (UHL/ECHL) (2000–present)

The First Arena is a 3,784-seat multi-purpose facility that features two ice surfaces, a full-service restaurant and bar, a food service center for the recreational rink, video game arcade, 31 luxury suites, party/group outing facilities, and meeting/community rooms among other amenities. located in downtown Elmira, New York. The arena opened in 2000 as the Coach USA Center which changed names to the First Arena in 2004. It is home to the Elmira Jackals ice hockey team of the ECHL. It is located on the corner of W. Gray Street and N. Main Street.

The arena's naming rights are held by First Transit.


The First Arena has hosted many different sporting events since its opening in November 2000. First Arena is mostly known for the Elmira Jackals who compete in the ECHL and formerly the United Hockey League. First Arena has also hosted many other sporting events such as basketball, X-treme Ice Racing, and pro wrestling from WWE and TNA Wrestling


The arena is used for more than just sporting events, with musical acts, family productions, and many other large entertainment performances such as concerts and circuses.

The following is a partial list of notable concerts and other entertainment events that have taken place at First Arena:

Oct. 24, 2009 - Lamb of God, GWAR & Job for a Cowboy

January 16, 2009 - Bill Engvall
January 2-4, 2009 - Disney on Ice
December 13, 2008 - Vince Gill & Amy Grant Christmas
Apr. 18th 2008 Larry The Cable Guy
Mar. 8th 2008 Larry the Cable Guy
Jan., 2008 - Labatt All-Star Challenge
Dec., 2007 - Kenny Rogers Concert
Oct., 2006 - Dierks Bentley along with Miranda Lambert
March, 2006 - NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament
Jan., 2006 - Dora The Explorer

Dec., 2005 - Fall Brawl Tour: Staind, P.O.D., Taproot & Flyleaf

Apr. 8, 2004 - Godsmack, Ill Nino & Doprbox
Nov. 9, 2002 - Bob Dylan
Dec. 18, 2001 - Kenny Rogers Christmas Show

Foreclosure Proceedings[edit]

The official move toward foreclosure against First Arena began after 4:30 p.m. January 17, 2012 the deadline for Elmira Downtown Arena to pay $123,849 in overdue taxes.

Elmira Downtown Arena LLC, which is supposed to pay taxes and utility bills, is owned by Michigan businessman Mostafa Afr, who also owns the Elmira Jackals hockey team, the arena's primary tenant

The owner of First Arena in Elmira plans to apply to repurchase the arena from Chemung County after a judge signs a foreclosure order and a redemption period begins.

This is not the first time that Elmira Downtown Arena has defaulted on its taxes. It entered into an installment agreement to pay taxes on Octorbe 31, 2007, and defaulted March 31, 2008. The default was paid off on Jan. 20, 2009, the last day possible. Elmira Downtown Arena entered into another installment agreement on January 14, 2011, and defaulted March 31, 2011.[8]

February 21, 2012 After not paying taxes for three years and being hit with a foreclosure order by Chemung County last week, Elmira Downtown Arena LLC owner, Mostafa Afr, has finally written a check to pay off all of the back taxes and fees he was responsible for. Afr owed $136,234.

The arena is owned by Southern Tier Economic Development, STED, but Elmira Downtown Arena LLC is the arena's operator. STED's lawyer, Steven Agan, says Afr's check will be delivered to Chemung County on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

If the check had not been written and the debt had not been paid, the county would gain ownership of the arena.[9]

March 2, 2012 The check has been delivered to the County, but the County Legislature still must vote to accept the payment. This vote is currently scheduled for March 12, 2012. Meanwhile, the General Manager of the Arena was fired yesterday via an email from Dr. Afr.[10]

March 6, 2012 The Chemung County Executive issued a scathing rebuke of the Afr family and recommended that the Legislature hold off their vote until June 30, 2012. During that time, he recommended hiring an outside consultant to conduct an investigation of the Arena's operations and finances.[11]

March 12, 2012 The Chemung County Legislature voted unanimously to table the vote until June 30, 2012 and to begin the investigation.[12]

March 22, 2012 The operator of First Arena filed two lawsuits. One against two former employees and the other against Chemung County, the County Executive, County Treasurer and Southern Tier Economic Development. "The truth will come out. Fact of the matter is the money was here to pay the taxes. And the fact is Robbie Nichols told the Afrs it was paid," said Jim Parks, Afr's Attorney.[13][14]

April 17, 2012 The two lawsuits were heard in Chemung County Supreme Court. No immediate decision was reached.[15]

April 25, 2012 The two lawsuits were dismissed. "The fact that the county has never in the past denied repurchase by a former owner after a tax foreclosure is of no consequence in this matter, since they are undoubtedly afforded the right to accept or reject, by majority vote, a private party repurchase agreement," Judge O'Shea wrote in her decision.[16]

May 30, 2012 The County has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Elmira Downtown Arena (EDA) and Southern Tier Economic Development (STED) to allow EDA to continue operating the First Arena for the 2012-2013 Elmira Jackals hockey season. The Legislature ratified the agreement on July 9, 2012.[17]

July 24, 2012 The County announced that First Arena will be sold to local businessman Tom Freeman, thus ending all pending litigation and placing the Arena onto the local tax rolls. Freeman will negotiate with the Afr family to keep the Jackals playing at First Arena.[18]

Timeline for First Arena[edit]


  • March 2: Elmira city officials announce they’ve chosen Lauridon Sports Management to help develop and operate the city's $11.6 million arena.
  • September 27: Midtown Plaza on North Main Street is selected as the site for the arena.
  • October 7: Lauridon commits $5 million to the $15 million project. It never says where the money would come from.


  • July 1: Five downtown businesses are evicted from their properties and are told they have until September 30 to move.
  • July 6: Elmira City Council unanimously votes to begin eminent domain proceedings against Paul Navestad, the only property owner (117 N. Main St.) the city couldn’t reach an agreement with.
  • August 18: Thomas Freeman, president of Coach USA Transit Services, announces he has signed an agreement to pay $1 million for the arena to be called the Coach USA Center.
  • September 21: Demolition crews begin to tear down North Main Street buildings to clear the way for the arena.
  • October 4: The Chemung County Legislature says that if the $7.25 million promised by Lauridon Sports Management and its private investor for the project, Mostafa Afr of Ann Arbor, Mich., isn’t in place by Dec. 1, it will pull its $1.25 million in support for the project.
  • October 26: Key Bank approves Mostafa Afr’s application for a $7.25 million loan to help build the center.
  • November 24: An estimated 175 people, some peering out of store and apartment windows, gather at North Main and Gray streets to watch the groundbreaking ceremony.


  • January 28: The Chemung County Industrial Development Agency closes on the county’s $1.25 million loan to the project.
  • February 1: The final piece of financing falls into place when the Afrs and a vice president from Key Bank in Albany close on a $5.5 million loan.
  • February 25: Tamer Afr, Mostafa Afr’s son and business partner, announces that Global Spectrum will replace Lauridon Sports Management as the arena facility manager.
  • March 27: The United Hockey League awards an expansion franchise to Elmira. The team is slated to begin play in the 2000-01 season.
  • May 18: Elmira’s UHL team is named the Jackals. Also, Tamer Afr introduces SMG as the arena’s new management firm, replacing Global Spectrum.
  • June 7: The City Council approves a roof design for the project, which now has an estimated cost of $16 million.
  • August 17: The Twin Tier Amateur Hockey Association and Tamer Afr sign a contract for youth hockey to be played at the arena, ending seven months of sometimes-heated negotiations.
  • November 11: The first event is held at the center when the Jackals play their home opener against Knoxville.
  • November 12: The Moody Blues appear as the first musical entertainment at the arena.


  • October: Coach USA Center is renamed First Arena.


  • April: Mostafa Afr announces that Robbie Nichols will take over operation of both First Arena and the Jackals. He is the arena’s eighth general manager in less than six years and its fourth manager in the past year.


  • October 31: EDA, the arena operator, enters into an installment agreement to pay taxes on which it had defaulted.


  • March 31: EDA defaults on the installment agreement.


  • April: Tax bills are issued by the City of Elmira.
  • July: The city sends out reminder notices for the unpaid first installment of the tax bill.
  • December: The city sends out reminder notices for the unpaid second installment of the tax bill.


  • March 31: The city provides information about all unpaid taxes to the county treasurer.
  • May: The county treasurer sends out reminder notices on all taxes unpaid as of March 31, 2009.


  • January: The county sends out 2010 tax bills with notice of unpaid taxes in prior years.
  • January 14: EDA enters into another installment agreement to pay 2010 taxes.
  • March 31: EDA defaults again, and the 2010 taxes become delinquent.
  • May: The county sends out reminder notices on 2010 delinquent taxes with a note that there are prior year taxes yet unpaid.
  • October: The county sends out 90-day notices with the deadline to pay taxes before foreclosure on Jan. 17.


  • January 17: The 4:30 p.m. deadline passes for EDA to pay $123,849 in overdue taxes.
  • Mid-February: A foreclosure order is signed by Chemung County Court Judge Peter Buckley, starting a “redemption period” that was to end Feb. 29. During that period, Southern Tier Economic Development, the arena’s owner, could get the property back by paying the overdue tax balance plus a 10% penalty totaling $136,234.
  • March 12: The county Legislature votes table an attempt by STED to buy back the arena. The legislature also called for the hiring of a consultant to investigate the arena’s financial status and physical condition.
  • March 22: EDA files a lawsuit against Chemung County, County Executive Tom Santulli, County Treasurer Joseph Sartori and STED to try to force the county to accept the repurchase offer on the arena.
  • March 22: EDA and M-Team LLC, a Michigan corporation, file a lawsuit against former arena General Manager Robbie Nichols and former Assistant General Manager Donald Lewis alleging they attempted to sabotage the arena operator, the Jackals and First Arena.
  • April 5: EDA and Key Bank filed two more lawsuits accusing the county of not following proper procedure in administering its foreclosure process.
  • April 17: Chemung County Supreme Court Judge Judith O’Shea hears arguments from EDA and the county but makes no immediate decision.
  • April 25: O’Shea dismisses the lawsuit filed March 22 against county officials and also dismisses the suit filed against Nichols and Lewis.
  • May 17: A memorandum of understanding is signed by Tamer Afr for EDA, Santulli for the county and Kevin Keeley as president of STED that allows the Jackals to play in the facility during the 2012-13 season. The agreement allows EDA to continue operating the arena but gives the county the same rights as STED to oversee arena operations.


  • February 5: Officials announce that Elm Arena LLC (the group headed by Freeman, now president of First Air in Big Flats) has been named as the new operator of First Arena, replacing the Afr family. The agreement ends all pending litigation.[1]


  • January 28: The Chemung County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) entered into an "option to purchase agreement" with a down payment of $300,000. This gives the IDA time to consider all factors and options.[19]
  • April 28: The IDA assumes temporary ownership of First Arena and the Jackals until a new owner can be found.[20]
  • May 24: The IDA agreed to send out formal requests for proposals to buy the arena.[21]
  • June 2: The IDA gave tours of the facility to several potential buyers. Proposals are due back by June 24. The IDA hopes to be in a position to select a buyer by late July or early August.[22]
  • June 13: The Chemung County Legislature approved a deed restriction ensuring that the First Arena will remain available for public use for at least ten years.
  • June 27: No purchase proposals were received by the June 24 deadline, but negotiations are continuing with three interested parties.
  • August 24: The process has narrowed to one party, who is also interested in buying the Jackals. The IDA hopes to complete the transaction by January.[23]


  1. ^ a b c Finger, Ray (February 6, 2013). "Arena Deal Draws Cheers in Elmira". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ ECHL Team Directory
  3. ^ Quinn, Kelley (November 24, 1999). "Arean Project Will Kick Into High Gear". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  4. ^ Kosnac, Erin (January 18, 2004). "Afr Seeks Bankruptcy Protection". The Times Herald. Port Huron. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  6. ^ The Mitchell Partnership, Inc. - First Arena
  7. ^ Welliver McGuire - Projects
  8. ^ Finger, Ray (January 30, 2012). "Owner Planning to Rebuy Arena". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  9. ^ "First Arena Could Avoid Foreclosure". WETM. February 20, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ Finger, Ray (February 29, 2012). "First Arena Future Still Unsettled". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ Finger, Ray (March 5, 2012). "Chemung County Delays First Arena Decision". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  12. ^ Finger, Ray (March 12, 2012). "Chemung County Legislature Tables Repurchase Offer for First Arena". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  13. ^ "First Arena Operators Sue Former General Manager". WETM. March 22, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  14. ^ Finger, Ray (March 23, 2012). "First Arena Operators File Lawsuits Against Chemung County Former Employees". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  15. ^ Whong, Jason (April 17, 2012). "Court Hears First Arena Suits". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ Whong, Jason (April 25, 2012). "County Wins Court Fight Over First Arena". Star-Gazette. Elmira. Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Santulli Announces Interim Agreement for Future of First Arena". Chemung County. May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Agreement Reached for Sale of First Arena". Chemung County. July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Chemung County IDA Considering Buying First Arena". WENY News. January 28, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  20. ^ "First Arena under new temporary ownership". WENY News. 28 Apr 2016. Retrieved 28 Apr 2016. 
  21. ^ "IDA Seeks Proposals For Purchase of First Arena". WETM News. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  22. ^ "Potential buyers get up close with First Arena". Elmira Star Gazette. June 2, 2016. Retrieved June 8, 2016. 
  23. ^ "Search For New First Arena Owner Narrowed To One Prospect". WETM News. August 24, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°05′18″N 76°48′31″W / 42.08835°N 76.808482°W / 42.08835; -76.808482