The ice fight is over

Greg and Deborah Meakin, co-owners of the Bremerton Ice Arena, might have found a way out of the legal and financial battle they were in. At 11:05 p.m. Thursday night, the Meakins filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the ice arena in federal court in Seattle .

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows organizations to restructure their finances while still operating. A trustee will be appointed to look over the documents and decide how things will proceed, Meakin said.

“At this point, I felt like this was the only thing I could do to continue managing the arena,” Meakin said Friday morning.

Meakin is being represented in court by Seattle-area attorney Marc Stern.

In the past few weeks, the two have been served with foreclosure papers and declarations of complaints. In addition, the couple was scheduled to appear in Kitsap County Superior Court Friday. The couple was to be in court on Friday for a receivership hearing, which would have determined whether a third party would step in to take over the books while the foreclosure proceedings take place.

The Chapter 11 filing cancelled the court appearance.

On the other side of the courtroom would have been the financiers of the project, Joanne and Chuck Haselwood, owners of the Haselwood Auto Group.

The court appearance would have been part of a continuing saga between the Meakins and the Haselwoods, which has been well documented in court papers and internal memos.

In an internal memo dated Dec. 7, Greg Meakin wrote to the “friends of the Bremerton Ice Arena,” he informed them of the receivership hearing.

“As of this coming Friday (Dec. 12) I might no longer be involved with the ice arena, if the lender and our youth hockey association board of directors get their wish,” he wrote.

He continued that he was proud of being able to bring his dream of an ice hockey rink to the community and stated he “cannot throw in the towel after coming this far.”

On that same day, Greg Meakin wrote a memo to his contractors and vendors to inform them of the receivership hearing.

He wrote that he still wanted to find a financial solution that would include paying them the money they are owed.

He acknowledged recent news reports that outlined the financial troubles the ice arena is facing. As of now, the Meakins owe contractors $700,000 and are more than three months behind on mortgage payments to the Haselwoods. The construction costs of the arena ran higher than projected and the Meakins did not have the startup costs on hand. Therefore he has been unable to climb out of debt. Even after the foreclosure papers were served, the Meakins have been working on a way to overcome the financial shortfall.

In addition, the ice arena opened at the beginning of the summer, and the summer months are off times for ice sports.

According to industry experts like Mike Sebastian of Center Ice Consultants in Michigan, it is not uncommon for ice rinks to not be money-making operations when they open.

“An ice skating facility is like any other business. Depending on how strong the market is, it typically takes from three to five years before they actually become profitable,” Sebastian said in an e-mail to the Bremerton Patriot newspaper. “We encourage both private and public rinks to capitalize the projected shortfalls into the initial budget process in order to avoid the kinds of problems associated with a startup.”

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