Even before Mark Brown listed the Main Street Arena for sale for $6.5 million in September, the rumor mill was working overtime about possible buyers for the prime Downtown Mall location, including speculation back in the spring that a Japanese developer wanted to turn it into a hotel.
The current buzz? That Jaffray Woodriff, founder of Quantitative Investment Management, which manages a $3 billion hedge fund, is going to buy the arena and turn it into a tech incubator hub. Another part of the chatter is that the ice park will move to a less pricey neighborhood, such as the Albemarle urban ring.
A call to Woodriff was routed to attorney Valerie Long, who declined to comment.
“Nothing is settled yet,” says Brown. “A number of people are looking at it.”
In 2010, Brown bought the ice rink that Lee Danielson and Colin Rolph built in 1996 and which is credited with helping to turn the Downtown Mall into the success story it is today.
The ice park itself, however, was a major financial drain. When team Danielson and Rolph split up, it was sold to Roberta Williamson and Bruce Williamson, who bought it for $3.1 million in 2003. They sold it to Brown for $3 million seven years later.
Brown’s strategy was to melt the ice for part of the year and use the 17,000-square-foot-rink for other purposes, while saving on electricity and water bills.
Roger Voisinet is an investor in the 230 W. Main St. facility, and he points out that the property is for sale, not the business. Six or seven locals, two who have children who play hockey, joined majority owner Brown to keep it from becoming a boarded up shell like the Landmark Hotel.
“We had a 10-year note,” says Voisinet, and the group had to invest an additional $1 million to keep the Main Street Arena open, he says.
Since the buy, Brown’s enchantment with owning property downtown has dissipated, fueled largely by his legal battles over the Water Street Parking Garage, which he co-owns with the city.
So when will the fate of the ice park be revealed? Says Brown, “When the for sale sign comes down.