The Jamestown Savings Bank Arena has indeed been the catalyst for the long and steady climb of Jamestown's west end.
A long list of development has sprung up in the wake of the arena's opening in 2002. The Gateway Center inhabits what was the delapidated husk of the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station. BWB built a new office space adjacent to the arena. Kurt Johnson undertook a massive renovation of Shawbuck's to open the Pressroom Restaurant. Jody Peterson poured millions into the Sprinchorn Building. A new hotel downtown and another on Interstate 86 have been built while dozens of new upper-floor apartments, including renovation of the Wellman Building, have been completed.
Outside the arena one sees a renaissance.
Inside the arena one sees an uphill struggle to fulfill the arena's promise. The arena has hosted world class events - United States Figure Skating Association regional competitions, major art shows, well-attended youth hockey tournaments, concerts featuring noted artists like Aaron Tippin, Kenny Rogers and Boyz II Men and the 2012 and 2013 Progressive Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular shows produced by Disson Skating and aired nationally on NBC. We have published often in its history rave reviews about the arena's quality from visitors who don't have such a facility in their hometown.
For all those positives, we have seen hockey teams come and go. The Jamestown Skating Academy is working to redefine itself and rebuild its ranks after a couple of years with sparse activity. Professional wrestling shows have been a hit at the arena, but such events can be costly. Packing the arena for concerts has proven difficult over the years.
The arena can do all the out-of-town marketing it wants - and such marketing is needed to broaden the arena's customer base - but it is up to those of us who live here to make the arena a success. Kurt Silcott, arena general manager, recently told The Post-Journal there are some exciting entertainment options lining up for the coming year. Hockey could be back this fall in the form of the Jamestown Ironmen. Recent Jamestown Skating Club activity is very promising. More concerts are on the horizon, including the Kellie Pickler concert scheduled for Jan. 23, and the arena will bring back its comedy series, a partnership between Justin Lindell and the arena that was received well earlier this year.
Yes, the arena has to price events so area residents can afford to attend, but we have to return the favor and pack the house as often as we can.
Jamestown foundations have shown faith in the concept of a downtown arena, investing millions of dollars to put together the site and then building the facility. Investors have shown their belief as well, pouring millions of dollars into the west end because of their belief the arena will bring people and dollars to the area.
What say you, Jamestown area residents? Do you have faith in downtown's centerpiece?