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Ice rink gets tax deal

Springfield leaders say move is a preventative measure.

City commissioners voted unanimously to authorize a 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement for the $6.8 million NTPRD Chiller ice arena as a preventative measure, according to city staff.

The NTPRD Chiller, the final piece of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s 13-year, $17 million improvement plan, is expected to open in October and will provide as many as 20 jobs for the area during peak times.

According to the abatement agreement, NTPRD is expected to hire seven employees in 2014, including three full-time, with an estimated payroll of $158,000.

Under state law, land owned by a local government entity is not taxed. Currently, the city owns the land at 301 W. Main Street and leases it to NTPRD, another public agency.

However, recent cases from the Ohio Supreme Court have shown property owned by public entities with private companies doing for-profit business on the land can be taxed. Some groups are challenging that decision, said Josh Rauch, the city’s deputy economic development administrator.

“It’s a murky area,” Rauch said.

The abatement was authorized to keep from putting the city, NTPRD and Chiller into a situation where courts decide whether the property should be taxed. City staff worked off the assumption the land would be taxable, prompting the abatement.

“It will help Chiller make the investments in that facility that will make it a fun and exciting place to go,” Rauch said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Mayor Warren Copeland said the city wouldn’t have taxed the property if National Trail Parks and Recreation District were operating the facility. City commissioners felt in order to get the best management possible, Chiller should receive the same treatment as NTPRD.

“All of us feel much more comfortable with Chiller operating instead of National Trail, but since Chiller is a private company, they wouldn’t automatically get the tax break. … It’s not a property we expected to get taxes off of anyway,” Copeland said.

NTPRD reached a five-year agreement with Columbus-based Chiller LLC earlier this year to operate the ice arena. Chiller LLC is owned and operated by JMAC, the majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

As part of the deal, the company will provide $500,000 in investments, including equipment, scoreboards, sound systems and lockers.

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