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EDITORIAL: War Memorial deal a victory for all parties -- including local veterans

Tribune-Democrat - 9/3/2017

Sept. 03--We salute all involved in the effort to establish naming rights at the War Memorial Arena, with 1st Summit Bank confirmed as the facility's new partner during a press conference this past Tuesday.

What a great moment for our community and the venerable building that dates back to the 1950s -- and which got new life with the Kraft Hockeyville USA triumph two years ago.

The home of the movie "Slap Shot" and an enduring hockey legacy, and the center erected to salute area veterans, is now known as 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

That's a mouthful, but we like the way it sounds -- and the remarkable show of collaboration the moniker represents.

The War Memorial Authority, the Cambria County commissioners, SMG promotions and 1st Summit Bank pulled off a deal that accomplished several important objectives:

--Gave the Johnstown arena a much-needed revenue infusion.

--Provided 1st Summit with a strong marketing vehicle for growing its business.

--Maintained the building's objective of honoring the service of local military veterans.

1st Summit will pay $720,000 for the naming rights over a 10-year contract, with a portion of that money directly benefiting the veterans museum and youth hockey programs.

Signage at the facility should be in place by the time the Johnstown Tomahawks hockey team -- the arena's top tenant -- hits the ice for its home opener on Oct. 14.

Stephen St. John, the arena's general manager from SMG, called the unveiling of the new arena name and logo a culmination of 20 months of work.

"The veterans, the bank, the authority, the commissioners have been more than easy to work with," St. John said. "We got this process into motion.

"Everybody worked together to get it done."

Veterans were front and center throughout that process, those involved said. Marty Kuhar, chairman of the arena's veterans committee, called the War Memorial "a living institution" that celebrates those who fought for their country throughout its history. Just a week earlier, the Cambria County Military Museum, located at the arena, welcomed nine new members into the county's military hall of fame.

"People come to the War Memorial -- whether they come to a hockey game, a rock concert, or an event -- but primarily to do that they are honoring veterans," Kuhar said. "That's why we're here. And with this new partnership of 1st Summit, we are so lucky because we can continue this mission."

Dean Gindlesperger, chairman of the arena authority, said that before Hockeyville, the building's financial situation was "grim."

The promotion through Kraft Foods and the National Hockey League earned the War Memorial $150,000 for upgrades.

Even more in local funds were added as the building was prepared for an NHL preseason game in September 2015 -- new lighting, dasher boards, sound system, later the floor and ice-making equipment -- changes that remain for local hockey organizations and other building uses.

Elmer C. Laslo, 1st Summit's CEO and president, said his institution had provided funding to improve the building to allow the Hockeyville game to be played in Johnstown.

Now, his company is making a long-term commitment through the building that now bears its name.

"We believe that it will be great to market with the arena, our name," Laslo said. "There are just so many synergies that we can do as a bank with all the people in the community that attend different events. That's why we did it. I think it's great name recognition for us throughout the five-county area that we're located."

We urge residents to support 1st Summit and the War Memorial to ensure that this marriage benefits all involved.

Cambria President Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said the dedication and cooperation that was required to finalize the naming rights deal was reminiscent of the community's "total team effort, a true team effort" to win Hockeyville in 2015.

We agree.

This deal is a winner for all involved -- especially veterans, whose place was preserved -- even as 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial signals a modern and innovative strategy for securing the future of this crucial community asset.

___

(c)2017 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

Visit The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.) at www.tribune-democrat.com

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