[caption id="attachment_201667" align="alignright" width="1360"] The Patriot Ice Center was recently acquired by Black Bear Sports Group. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE[/caption]
NEWARK – The owner of minor league hockey franchises and numerous arenas in the United States has acquired the Patriot Ice Center for $3.5 million, according to county land records.
Black Bear Sports Group announced the deal July 20, marking the 5-year-old company’s first acquisition in Delaware after owning and operating 15 arenas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, and Connecticut.
The private company is led by founder and CEO Murry Gunty, who also co-owns the Youngstown Phantoms, a top-tier junior U.S. Hockey League franchise located in Ohio, and a second-tier junior North American Hockey League franchise, the Maryland Black Bears. Gunty’s company focuses on ice arenas in metropolitan areas with “compelling demographics, markets with a National Hockey League club presence and arenas with existing youth hockey clubs,” according to a press release announcing the acquisition.
The 67,000-square-foot Patriot Ice Center features one NHL-size ice rink and one Olympic-size ice rink, an athletic training gym, café, pro shop, and a martial arts studio. The rink is home to the Delaware Ducks Youth Hockey Club, a second-tier USA Hockey youth club playing in the Delaware Valley Hockey League. It also hosts various tournaments and high school teams from around the region as well.
“The Mid-Atlantic region is producing more and more talented skaters and youth players. Delaware is known for quality figure skating, but many young players are passionate about hockey here as well,” Gunty said in a statement. “We are excited to add Patriot to our growing portfolio of East Coast ice rinks.”
Black Bear has a history of investing into its acquired properties and that will be the case in Newark, where upgrades are coming.
“We are excited to improve the facility and strengthen the skating and hockey programming at Patriot,” said Ryan Scott, vice president of Black Bear, in a statement. “Our immediate priority is to structurally improve the ice surfaces to ensure the community has quality ice for the upcoming season and to renovate the building to enhance the customer experience going forward.”
Black Bear said it believes the Patriot Ice Center will complement nearby rinks, including Ice World in Harford County, Md., and three facilities in the suburban Philadelphia area.
The Patriot Ice Center was known for many years as The Pond, when it hosted well-known figure skating Olympian Johnny Weir for training. Newark for many years was considered a prime hub for figure skating talent between The Pond and the University of Delaware’s Fred Rust Ice Arena.
The Pond’s reputation was damaged in 2013, however, when child sexual abuse charges were levied against a former co-owner and he was subsequently convicted. In 2018, local hockey coach Mark Cardillo and chiropractor Alex Bohatiuk took ownership of the facility and rebranded it the Patriot Ice Center.