By Paul Post
Newly renovated Heritage Hall got off to a strong start by hosting the recent third annual Sandy’s Clam Bar Reunion, featuring popular local bands to benefit Operation Santa Claus.
The event space at Cool Insuring Arena was given a $1 million makeover this summer , highlighted by new flooring, ceilings, walls and electrical wiring along with multi-colored lighting and a stone countertop bar. A new storage room was created at the west end of the room so table and chairs no longer have to be kept behind curtains in the hallway.
“It’s a multi-purpose room for whatever someone envisions,” said Jeff Mead, arena general manager. “The plan is to host weddings, business events, chamber mixers, birthday parties, comedy shows. Anybody who has an event, we’ll work with them. We’re also going to show Thunder away hockey games on new 70-inch TVs. There will be a full bar and menu to order from.”
The project was paid for with public and private dollars including $500,000 from Warren County and $200,000 from the City of Glens Falls, the building’s owner.
“Then we realized, if we do this room and make it beautiful, the hallway is still outdated,” Mead said. “It wouldn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor. So we redid the halls as well.”
That $200,000 effort required additional fundraising. Half was paid for by the Glens Falls Coalition, a group of business leaders formed in 2015 to operate the arena. Glens Falls Civic Center Foundation provided $35,000,
“We’re pretty close to the amount of money we need to complete the whole project,” Mead said.
The update is viewed as another big step toward bringing people downtown to boost the local economy.
“All these things will enhance the city’s revitalization, which we all know has been amazing the past 10 years,” said Ed Moore, Coalition co-founder. “We have lots of places to eat now, pubs and more and more retail. People love coming here. I just see this building continuing to become a vital part of the community. It was built for that reason and I think it lost its focus. Now the hockey team is doing well, we have junior hockey, too. We’re looking for more sporting events to come here.”
Moore owns the Queensbury Hotel, which opened a large ballroom addition last year. Instead of competing with each other, newly-renovated Heritage Hall and the hotel might collaborate to bring events to Glens Falls such as business conventions.
For example, vendors could set up on the arena floor, Heritage Hall could be used for meetings, while the hotel provides lodging and banquet space.
Heritage Hall’s makeover is the latest in a series of major upgrades at Cool Insuring Arena. Last year, six new luxury suites were constructed on the north side of the building for people to view sporting events. They’ve already been sold out for the upcoming Adirondack Thunder hockey season. Mead said future plans might call for more suites or party decks.
“This is part of a long-term plan that will increase our income to do even more things for the arena,” Moore said. “We’re aren’t stopping. Hopefully we’ll continue to get the support of the community and county.”
Moore said he’d eventually like to see a separate outside entrance to Heritage Hall, accessible with an elevator or escalator, so people can get there directly without having to go through the arena lobby. This project would likely include renovation of the arena’s outdoor front plaza.
Two years ago, the city paid for a new roof on the building, which first opened in 1979. Mead said Heritage Hall’s renovation wouldn’t have been possible without such work.
“The walls had water damage from before the roof got replaced,” he said. “It took three weeks just to demolish the old ceiling. It was quite a process. We also demolished the old bar, took it down to the screws and started from scratch.”
In recent years, Thunder locker rooms have been upgraded and a large new video scoreboard was installed over the arena floor, which enhances advertising revenue.
“We’re updating showers right now,” Mead said. “Every year we invest into the hockey facilities to elevate the player experience.”
A $100,000 new Olympia ice machine, used for keeping the ice surface smooth, is on order and should arrive this fall, and plans call for installing new chilling equipment to make sure ice is always solid.
Mead credited many local businesses for bringing the Heritage Hall project to fruition. Villnave Construction with the Drywall Center did the doors, walls and ceiling. Adirondack Precision Cut Stone did counter tops, JGR Homes built the bar and did trim work, Everything Under Foot did flooring. Adirondack P&M did mechanical work. Better Than New Painting handled painting and architect Ethan Hall donated time and skills to the project. Curtis Lumber assisted with product for the room.
Rozell Industries did the electrical for the HVAC. Great Electric installed the lighting package in HH. Sounds Solutions did the audio and video system.
Coming off last spring’s late-season playoff chase, more than 1,300 Thunder season tickets have been sold. The team’s home opener is on Saturday, Oct. 28 against Maine.
But many other sports and non-sports events and activities are also on tap including a Division I NCAA basketball game (details announced soon). The girls high school state volleyball tournament takes place in November, followed by Section II boys basketball and wrestling in February, and the state boys basketball tournament in March.