Owner seeks tax breaks for sports domes

The Summit mall owner wants a tax break for the two inflatable sports domes he plans to build later this year behind the largely vacant mall on Williams Road in Wheatfield (NY).

If granted, the request would save the mall’s owner an estimated $560,000 over 10 years.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board on Wednesday called for a public hearing to be held on a date to be determined, before the board’s likely vote on the project April 12.

In November 2014, the IDA granted a tax break to mall owner Zoran Cocov for the 810,000-square-foot mall itself, after hearing his plans for trying to resuscitate the run-down shopping center.

Cocov, of Brampton, Ont., also bought 570 acres of land around the mall.

Cocov’s company, Summit Outlets, now seeks an additional payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement on a $7.3 million improvement project, including the pair of 96,000-square-foot domes. The domes would contain several sports fields and courts for soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball.

Besides reducing the property taxes on the domes for 10 years, the incentive also would exempt Summit Outlets from paying sales taxes on building materials and equipment for the domes.

Cocov previously said that the domes would help revive the mall by bringing local players to the facility, which would be connected to the mall. The only active stores at the mall are Sears, Bon-Ton and Save-a-Lot.

Save-a-Lot will close before the end of the year, said Cynthia Potts, Cocov’s director of operations.

The domes would create 14 full-time and 60 part-time jobs, according to the IDA application. The domes can be used in the offseason for trade shows and conventions.

The project also envisions renovating 48,540 square feet inside the existing mall building. The space would be converted into locker rooms, a pool, batting cages, a pitching mound and 10,000 square feet for personal training, including a health club.

The domes may not be built at the same time, because their location requires National Grid to move the mall’s primary electrical service, Potts said.

“I think we’re going to end up starting with one dome,” Potts said.

But she said there’s still a chance both will be completed this year.

Cocov, who bought the mall in 2014, said in his application that vandals have taken 85 percent of its rooftop air handling units and 80 percent of its wiring.

“We are seeking assistance and tax abatement help with erecting the domes, which we believe is the first step to begin the revitalization and repurposing of the mall,” the application said. “Without financial assistance, it will take years for the domes to be erected, operating and sustaining themselves, driving the resurgence of the mall and new opportunities within.”

The company already has proposed a brew pub and microbrewery in the mall. The Town of Wheatfield on Feb. 27 approved a state grant application for $750,000 to be applied toward the project under the name of Big Thunder Brewing Co.- by Thomas Prohaska, The Buffalo News (New York)