Nearly 700 hockey players will descend on the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena this weekend for the annual Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association Mid-Winter Classic Tournament.
Games begin today and continue through Monday, with 688 players from 45 teams participating, including five Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association Lakers teams.
Hundreds of children and parents from outside the area staying in area hotels, eating at downtown restaurants and spending money at area shops. It is the type of vision at the roots of the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena and a vision Brian Cersosimo is espousing in his new role as Jamestown Savings Bank Arena general manager.
Max Pickard, Jamestown Center City Development Corporation board chairman, and Greg Edwards, Gebbie Foundation executive director, both reiterated recently the knowledge to have more ice-related events in the building. Skate Chautauqua, once a large skating competition that drew as many skaters from outside the area as the Mid-Winter Classic Tournament does hockey players, didn't happen this past summer.
More than a decade into its existence, the ice arena is still searching to find itself. Hosting big names and professional leagues is important for the arena, but so are youth hockey tournaments and skating competitions. What events are the best use for the community and for the long-term economic health of the building? The bottom line at the arena will always be important because it is important that the facility remains viable. Money spent keeping it afloat is money that can't be used on other needs.
Equally important is the arena's ability to generate vitality downtown. It is heartening to drive through downtown Jamestown on a Saturday morning and see few open parking spots and people walking from hotels and parking ramps to the arena. The activity when the arena is hosting tournaments and events creates a palpable buzz downtown that is hard to replicate.
Getting the most from the ice arena has proven to be a tough task in recent years. Perhaps this weekend's Mid-Winter Classic will be an indication that the ice arena's future lies in its pretty successful past.