Purchase of Arena Gets Senate OK

12/29/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

By Matt Murphy

BOSTON ߞ; The sale of the Tsongas Arena to the University of Massachusetts Lowell is nearly complete after the Senate yesterday signed off on the legislation authorizing the swap.

The bill allows for a new authority called the Lowell Civic Stadium Commission to transfer ownership of the Tsongas Arena to the UMass Building Authority, while remaining involved in the oversight of the city-owned LeLacheur Park.

The new commission is also given the power to transfer all liquor licenses held by the city for the arena to the university.

The legislation must still be approved by the House and signed by the governor, but the legal details have essentially been resolved. Barring any delays, the bill goes into effect Jan. 12, contingent upon the UMass closing on its financing to purchase the arena.

The deal calls for UMass Lowell to purchase the Tsongas Arena for $1, while the city remains on the hook for $2.5 million in debt service left over from construction.

The UMass Building Authority has authorized the university to borrow $5 million for improvements to the facility, and the city will be receiving a vacant, four-acre parcel of university-owned land north of the UMass Bellegarde Boathouse on Pawtucket Boulevard for $1.

UMass Lowell has also agreed to pay the city $800,000 for the three-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Tsongas Arena.

The former industrial site, valued at $2.9 million, carries an estimated $2.1 million in associated costs to clean up the land. The funds will be used by the city to begin paying down the debt still owed on the arena.