Atlanta Hawks’ NBA D-League to Begin Play in 2017-18 Season in Erie, Pennsylvania

NEW YORK, Jan. 31, 2017 – The NBA Development League and the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club announced today that the Hawks’ new NBA D-League team intends to play in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The team will permanently relocate to a newly constructed arena in College Park, Georgia, prior to the 2019-20 season. It was previously announced that Atlanta’s NBA D-League affiliate would make its debut in 2019-20 in College Park.

Atlanta’s NBA D-League affiliate would represent the record 24th NBA D-League team scheduled to play for the 2017-18 season.

The team plans to play the next two seasons at Erie Insurance Arena, as the Erie BayHawks, giving Atlanta an earlier start with its goal of developing young talent while keeping NBA D-League basketball in the Erie community. The Atlanta Hawks will partner with the BayHawks’ current management team in Erie, led by Owen McCormick and Matt Bresee.

The Orlando Magic, which has agreed to acquire the current Erie BayHawks franchise, announced in December that the team intends to relocate to Lakeland, Florida. The team will be renamed and rebranded for next season.

“I’m thrilled that the Atlanta Hawks have been able to accelerate their minor league team’s entry into the NBA D-League by playing in Erie while their new home in College Park is being constructed,” said NBA D-League President Malcolm Turner. “This is a one-of-a-kind partnership in the NBA D-League, and I’m looking forward to watching the Hawks begin their tenure in the NBA D-League in Erie, which has proved to be a terrific NBA D-League market over the last decade.”

“Since becoming owners of the Atlanta Hawks, securing a D-League team has been one of our group’s top priorities – along with the implementation of a large-scale renovation and upgrade to Philips Arena and construction of a new, world-class practice facility, which were previously announced,” said Atlanta Hawks Principal Owner and Chairman Tony Ressler. “This opportunity to start two years sooner is even better news for both Erie and Atlanta and we are excited to get a head start on Coach Bud and Wes Wilcox’s efforts to develop players as they work to build a championship-caliber team. We would like to thank the BayHawks’ management team for working with our Club and the City of College Park, as it constructs a new facility, as well as the NBA D-League for assisting us in our efforts.”

During the team’s two-year period in Pennsylvania, the Erie BayHawks management team, College Park officials and the Atlanta Hawks will work together on operational and construction matters and collaborate to ensure that both communities benefit from this agreement.

“It’s great news that the Atlanta Hawks will begin managing their NBA D-League team in Erie, Pennsylvania, this upcoming season,” said College Park Mayor Jack P. Longino. “I appreciate the Hawks’ proactive approach and look forward to a seamless transition when the team makes our new College Park arena its home in 2019.”

“We’re thrilled to keep an NBA Development League team in Erie and are looking forward to working with the Atlanta Hawks for what will be the 10th season of BayHawks basketball in 2017-18,” said McCormick, owner of Erie Basketball Management, the group set to manage the day-to-day business operations of the team in Erie.

Six current Hawks have NBA D-League experience, including starters Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder, while assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Taylor Jenkins both began their coaching careers on NBA D-League benches. Additionally, Hawks General Manager Wes Wilcox was the inaugural general manager of the NBA D-League’s Canton Charge. The Hawks have assigned three players to the NBA D-League this season.

About the Atlanta Hawks

With a bold identity and strong new ownership, the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and Philips Arena remain committed to making Atlantans proud on the court and off. The 2014-15 Southeast Division Champions, the Hawks have made the postseason in nine consecutive seasons and reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history in 2015. Off the court, the organization has built a culture of inclusion, diversity and innovation, all with a touch of Southern Hospitality. It continues into the community where the organization builds bridges through basketball, whether by constructing and refurbishing courts in Atlanta neighborhoods, providing scholarships to our basketball camps, or surprising and delighting our fans with unique Atlanta Hawks experiences. Atlanta Hawks Membership, which includes your seat for every home game for the 2016-17 regular season games, is on sale now at http://www.hawks.com/membership or by calling 866-715-1500! For more information on the Hawks, log on to http://www.hawks.com today or follow us on twitter @ATLHawks.

About the NBA Development League

The NBA Development League is the NBA’s official minor league, preparing players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front-office staff for the NBA while acting as the league’s research and development laboratory. Featuring 22 teams with direct affiliations with NBA franchises for the 2016-17 season, the league offers elite professional basketball at an affordable price in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. An all-time high 38 percent of all NBA players at the end of the 2015-16 season boasted NBA D-League experience. In fostering the league’s connection to the community, its teams, players and staff promote health and wellness, support local needs and interests, and assist in educational development through NBA D-League Cares programs. Fans can watch all NBA D-League games on nbadleague.com.

Extended Version of Op Ed Published in the Erie Times News 1-29-17

Photo credit: Gibbens Creative

By: Elizabeth D’Aurora, Erie Events Coordinator of Communications

Questions have arisen since the City of Erie filed its challenge to the tax-exempt status of the two hotels and the two parking garages which are owned and operated by the Erie County Convention Center Authority. The public needs to have a clear understanding of why the Authority is tax-exempt and how the Authority benefits the taxpayers of the City and County while improving the quality of life in our community.

I. Tax-Exempt Status Necessary

The tax-exempt status of the Authority was a critical factor in planning and constructing the Convention Center hotels. The Authority thoroughly investigated the possibility of partnering with privately owned hotel operators, but we were unable to find any who were willing to build hotels of a size and quality necessary to ensure success.  The Authority’s tax-exempt status allowed the Authority to build bigger and better hotels to fulfill requirements of the Convention Center development.  In short, the tax-exempt status of the Authority was essential to the creation of a world-class destination that was simply not achievable through the private sector.

The financing of the Convention Center hotels came primarily from bonds issued by the Authority which were guaranteed by the County. The Authority uses hotel revenues to pay down the bonds that were used to build the hotels.  Those bonds were sold on the assumption that the Authority’s hotels were tax-exempt, and the bondholders purchased those bonds on the assumption that the Authority’s hotels were tax-exempt.  Changing that rule, nine years into the thirty year bond repayment commitment, is unfair and dangerous to both the bondholders and County taxpayers, since County taxpayers are ultimately responsible for any failure to fulfill this long term obligation.

One only needs to look at the minimal private commercial development that has occurred on the Bayfront in the past twenty years to appreciate that tax exemption is a critical component of successful development. The limited private commercial development that has occurred, and that which has long been promised but has not yet materialized, is itself reliant on extensive tax exemptions (ten year grace period from real estate taxes under LERTA and relief from other taxes under the CRIZ designation) and substantial state grants (most recently, a $5,000,000 state grant to a private party, with no repayment obligation).

In the end, it is the taxpayers who own the hotels, and it is the taxpayers who are the sole beneficiary of any profits from the hotels. Every penny which has been generated by the hotels, and every penny which will be generated in the future, has been, and will continue to be, reinvested by the Authority in our community.

II. Community Economic Benefits

The Authority has provided many benefits to the community at large, and the City in particular since the Authority was created in 2000:

  • Saved the City over $3,000,000 in taxpayer subsidies for the Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre over the past fifteen years
  • Made substantial infrastructure improvements for the benefit of the City:
  • $2,500,000 for a sewer line, lift station and related items on State Street
  • $313,000 to rebuild the City’s sewer lift station on the Bayfront Parkway
  • $450,000 to upgrade the City’s water system on the Bayfront
  • Generates $250,000 annually in amusement and parking taxes for the City
  • Employs in Authority facilities nearly 1000 people who generate more than $100,000 in local wage taxes annually
  • Created more than $250,000,000 of construction investment in the City
  • Created over 841 prevailing wage construction jobs
  • Maintains a 600 foot, free courtesy dock for boaters in the West Canal Basin
  • Created more than 4000 feet of free public access walkways on the waterfront where none had previously existed
  • Secured $10,000,000 in state grants to clean up the GAF site, which would otherwise have been unavailable for taxable commercial development due to its environmental condition
  • Renovated the Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre, which collectively attract more than 850,000 patrons annually. These reinvestments positioned Erie to retain its sports teams and will grow our cultural arts organizations.
  • Generates more than $94,000,000 in related spending in the community
    • $11.1 million for Tickets and Admissions
    • $24.2 million for Eating and Drinking
    • $34.9 million for Transportation and Lodging
    • $19.5 million for Shopping
    • $4.7 million for Other spending

All of this has been accomplished without a single taxpayer dollar from the City of Erie.

III. The Creation of the Authority:  A Dream and a Promise

It is essential to revisit the past in order to understand the Authority’s position. It began in the late 1990s, when a group of public officials and private citizens developed a visionary proposal to build a convention center and host hotel on the Bayfront.  It must be remembered that Bayfront development at that time was only a dream.  The Penelec coal fired generating plant was still in operation.  The Sassafras Street dock, now the site of the Convention Center, was occupied by Erie Sand & Gravel and the GAF shingle factory.  Public access to the waterfront was virtually non-existent.  It took vision, and quite a dream, to see something so different through all of that.

The proposal called for: (1) the creation of the Authority under the Third Class County Convention Center Authority Act (the “Act”); and (2) pursuant to the Act, the imposition of a hotel bed tax.

The Act applies to all third class counties across the Commonwealth, a number of which have, like Erie, created convention center authorities. The Act has always provided that all properties owned by an authority are exempt from real property taxes.  In this regard, the Authority always has been, and continues to be, no different than any other authority created under the Act.

The City and the County created the Authority in the spring of 2000. They did so with the understanding that the Act would be amended in three critical ways:  (1) to expand the scope of the Authority to include the Tullio Arena, Jerry Uht Park, and Warner Theatre; (2) to reimburse Erie County for the costs of administering the bed tax; and (3) to expand the representation on the Authority Board.  This amendment was passed by the legislature in the fall of 2000. It should be noted that neither this amendment nor any subsequent amendment changed the provision that properties owned by an authority are tax-exempt.

Of particular importance was coverage of the Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre. At that time, these facilities were managed by an arm of the City.  The operation of these facilities required a subsidy of up to $280,000 in City taxpayer funds annually and a key objective in creating the Authority was to relieve the City of that burden.

IV. The Dream Fulfilled – the Promise Kept

I think we can rightfully say that the Authority has both fulfilled the dreams and has kept the promises which were made when the Authority was formed and it has done so in a way which has exceeded all expectations.

The Convention Center Complex, including the hotels and parking garages, is simply spectacular, by any reasonable measure, and especially in comparison to communities which are of the same size as Erie. The Convention Center has exceeded every projection made prior to its construction.  The Convention Center will host 22 conventions in 2017, and successive years look equally promising, now that we have a sufficient number of hotel rooms which are connected to the Convention Center to accommodate much larger groups.

The Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre have been upgraded to retain our sports teams and meet the increasing needs of arts organizations and nationally touring acts. Again, these facilities are impressive and unique for communities our size.

V. The Future

The Authority has conceived, constructed and successfully operated more transformational projects than any other local governmental agency. Look at the Warner Theatre, Erie Insurance Arena, UPMC Park, the Convention Center Complex and our Bayfront Place Development Plan. These are the types of projects that we have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that we can and will do, if we work together as a community.

It is critical that we continue this course and retain all the tools, as originally promised, to help our City, County and its hard working residents expand our opportunities to make Erie an even better place to live, work, and play.

Erie Times News Op Ed as Published 1-29-17

Photo credit: Gibbens Creative

By: Elizabeth D’Aurora, Erie Events Coordinator of Communications

Questions have arisen since the City of Erie filed its challenge to the tax-exempt status of the two hotels and the two parking garages which are owned and operated by the Erie County Convention Center Authority. The public needs to have a clear understanding of why the Authority is tax-exempt and how the Authority benefits the taxpayers of the City and County while improving the quality of life in our community.

The tax-exempt status of the Authority was a critical factor in planning and constructing the Convention Center hotels. The Authority thoroughly investigated the possibility of partnering with privately owned hotel operators, but we were unable to find any who were willing to build hotels of a size and quality necessary to ensure success.  In short, the tax-exempt status of the Authority was essential to the creation of a world-class destination that was simply not achievable through the private sector.

The financing of the Convention Center hotels came primarily from bonds issued by the Authority which were guaranteed by the County. The Authority uses hotel revenues to pay down the bonds that were used to build the hotels.  Those bonds were sold on the assumption that the Authority’s hotels were tax-exempt, and the bondholders purchased those bonds on the assumption that the Authority’s hotels were tax-exempt.  Changing that rule, nine years into the thirty year bond repayment commitment, is unfair and dangerous to both the bondholders and County taxpayers, since County taxpayers are ultimately responsible for any failure to fulfill this long term obligation.

One only needs to look at the minimal private commercial development that has occurred on the Bayfront in the past twenty years to appreciate that tax exemption is a critical component of successful development. The limited private commercial development that has happened, and that which has long been promised but has not yet materialized, is itself reliant on extensive tax exemptions and substantial state grants.

In the end, it is the taxpayers who own the hotels, and it is the taxpayers who are the sole beneficiary of any profits from the hotels. Every penny which has been generated by the hotels, and every penny which will be generated in the future, has been, and will continue to be, reinvested by the Authority in our community.

The Authority has provided many benefits to the community at large, and the City in particular, since the Authority was created in 2000:

  • Saved the City over $3,000,000 in taxpayer subsidies for the Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre over the past fifteen years
  • Made substantial infrastructure improvements for the benefit of the City:
  • $2,500,000 for a sewer line, lift station and related items on State Street
  • $313,000 to rebuild the City’s sewer lift station on the Bayfront Parkway
  • $450,000 to upgrade the City’s water system on the Bayfront
  • Generates $250,000 annually in amusement and parking taxes for the City
  • Employs in Authority facilities nearly 1000 people who generate more than $100,000 in local wage taxes annually
  • Created more than $250,000,000 of construction investment in the City
  • Created over 841 prevailing wage construction jobs
  • Maintains a 600 foot, free courtesy dock for boaters in the West Canal Basin
  • Created more than 4000 feet of free public access walkways on the waterfront where none had previously existed
  • Secured $10,000,000 in state grants to clean up the GAF site, which would otherwise have been unavailable for taxable commercial development due to its environmental condition
  • Renovated the Arena, the Ballpark and the Theatre, which collectively attract more than 850,000 patrons annually. These reinvestments positioned Erie to retain its sports teams and will grow our cultural arts organizations.
  • Generates more than $94,000,000 in related spending in the community
    • $11.1 million for Tickets and Admissions
    • $24.2 million for Eating and Drinking
    • $34.9 million for Transportation and Lodging
    • $19.5 million for Shopping
    • $4.7 million for Other spending

All of this has been accomplished without a single taxpayer dollar from the City of Erie.

The Authority has conceived, constructed and successfully operated more transformational projects than any other local governmental agency. Look at the Warner Theatre, Erie Insurance Arena, UPMC Park, the Convention Center Complex and our Bayfront Place Development Plan. These are the types of projects that we have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that we can and will do, if we work together as a community.

It is critical that we continue this course and retain all the tools, as originally promised, to help our City, County and its hard working residents expand our opportunities to make Erie an even better place to live, work, and play.

Host Your Event at the Unique Anchor Plaza

From the desk of Martha Stickner, Senior Event Coordinator at the Bayfront Convention Center:

As many of you know and have heard, the new Courtyard Marriott is open for business! But what you may not know is that there is a fabulous outdoor space available to host a special event. The area is referred to as the Anchor Plaza, located between the Courtyard and the Bayfront Convention Center on the second floor. It is accessible from all three properties (Bayfront Convention Center, Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel and Courtyard Erie Bayfront Hotel) by a covered walkway, so guests essentially don’t have to go outside.

Whether it be an intimate wedding ceremony and reception, cocktail party, family gathering, bridal or baby shower, or even a corporate celebration, this space can be transformed for any occasion! It is 4,500 square feet of space that is protected with a large tent. There are many options for setup as well as food and beverage service provided by the Bayfront staff. Depending on the specific event requirements, the capacity varies from a 200 guest wedding reception to a 400 person cocktail party. Smaller gatherings less than 50 guests can booked through the sales manager at the Courtyard Hotel.

Due to the Erie weather pattern, the Anchor Plaza is available to rent during the months of June through October. We encourage you to give us a call at the Bayfront Convention Center to schedule a tour of this unique space and plan your next event!

079 120 193 269 320

Photo credit: Gibbens Creative

Photo credit: Gibbens Creative

Erie Events Acquires Property to Move Warner Theatre Restoration Forward

Decades of tremendous efforts by Erie Events and the Warner Theatre Preservation Trust will come to fruition as Erie Events acquired the necessary property behind the Theatre stage to begin Phase IV of the restoration project. The project dates back to the 1990s when updates to the original 1931 Warner Brothers theatre began. The plan has been delayed for many years because a mortgage on the property was secured through a program with the Housing and Urban Development. The property owners were not willing to sell until the HUD mortgage matured, which occurred in 2016. Once the mortgage matured, Erie Events purchased the property which will allow the final phase to proceed. Now that Erie Events has closed on the property, the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services will remobilize the architect, Daniel Coffey and Associates of Chicago, to finish the final design.

Phase IV will transform the Warner Theatre from its 1931 movie house/vaudeville stage into a historically preserved, fully-functional performing arts center. It will create basement, ground and mezzanine levels with approximately 13,750 square feet of new space and will rehabilitate approximately 9,000 square feet of existing space. The stage depth will increase by 20 feet and a new stage house with new rigging, lighting, a sound system, dressing rooms and loading docks will be added. New production equipment and a custom designed orchestral shell will also be included in the renovation.

The preservation and upkeep of the historic theatre is necessary because the venue is a vital asset to the community and the local groups who call the theatre home, including The Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, the Erie Broadway Series and the Lake Erie Ballet. In 2015, there were more than 82,000 patrons through the theatre doors, with a direct economic impact of $10.7 million. A significant increase in events and economic impact is expected after the renovations are complete.

The project spans a lengthy timeline dating back to the planning in the 1990s and restoration starting in 2002.

  • Phase I: 2002 – $2 million – The theatre roof was replaced and all decorative surfaces in the lobby and auditorium were cleaned, painted and restored.
  • Phase II: 2003 – $1 million – New seats were installed on the auditorium level and the balcony seats were renovated.
  • Phase III: 2007 – $2.3 million – Expansion and integration of the theatre with the National City Bank building at 8th and French Streets. The updates incorporated the new entrance on French Street, an electronic marquee, more lobby space, an elevator, additional restrooms and concession areas. These renovations included improvements to make the theatre compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Commonwealth was willing to hold the funds for the project until the transaction was able to be completed. The entire project will be funded in part by an $11 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a $3.5 million contribution from the Warner Theatre Preservation Trust, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Once work begins, the theatre will need to be closed for five months during the summer, but the closure will not interrupt the Erie Philharmonic and the Erie Broadway seasons.

 

Advice on Getting a Meet and Greet Pass

From the desk of Dawn Betza, Erie Events Marketing Coordinator:

In the past 15 years, I’ve been asked a million times over “How do I get backstage?” The best possibility…plan ahead. If you come up to me the night of the show and say “Can I meet the band?” or “The singer is from my hometown, can I get his autograph?”, the answer will always be no – sad, but true. Any type of meet and greet is arranged months in advance and many people, such as tour managers, show promoters, record labels and artists themselves, must approve every detail.

Here’s my advice on getting a meet and greet pass:

  1. Join the artist fan club. Many clubs allow their members to purchase exclusive meet and greet packages. They may also offer special contests to win passes.
  2. Sponsoring radio/TV stations. These stations help promote the show and typically secure passes. They are given away through various online/on air promotions, remotes, etc.
  3. Concert sponsors. A beer manufacturer or carbonated beverage company may be sponsoring the tour for the artist and have passes available.
  4. VIP packages. These have become increasingly popular in the past few years and are the easiest way to obtain a pass; however, they come with a high price tag. Packages can range from $200-$1,500.

There’s no doubt about it, meet and greets are very exciting and a great way to rub elbows with your favorite artist, but they are not all created equaly. Unless you pay for a VIP package, you will not get any special treatment. More than likely, you’ll get a photo, but anything else such as an autograph, merchandise or chatting with the band, will not happen. In fact, fans members, under their contract, are only required to show up.

Be sure to check out our upcoming events online at http://www.erieevents.com.

Sesame Street Live “Let’s Dance!” is coming to Erie!

Hosted by two live performers, Sesame Street Live “Let’s Dance!” offers an up-close, interactive experience that includes dance parties. Elmo uses his imagination to “Do the Robot,” Cookie teaches all ‘feets’ to dance, Abby leads a rhyming game, and Ernie shares the fun of dance with the Sesame Street favorite “Shake Your Head One Time.” Favorite friends join the audience on the floor – dancing with fans, not just for them. It’s Sesame Street Live like you’ve never experienced it before!
Get the ultimate fan experience with Sunny Seats!

The Sunny Seats package features premium show seating and a pre-show Meet & Greet with two

Sesame Street Live friends, including Elmo!

Sunny Seat orders will include a separate Meet & Greet ticket, which you’ll receive with your show tickets. Each adult and child (age 1 and up) in a group must have a Sunny Seat show ticket and Meet & Greet ticket. All Meet & Greets start one hour before show time and last 20 minutes. Latecomers may miss the opportunity. Please meet at the Sunny Seats sign in the main lobby. Don’t forget your camera!

Tickets go on sale March 3, 2016!

Purchase at the Erie Insurance Arena box office or by calling (814) 452-4857.