WILKES-BARRE TWP. — With much more to be worked out, the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority Wednesday approved a $3.6 million expansion project to include a lounge and food and beverage area at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The plans that are still in the conceptual stage have been pared down as a result of other capital projects undertaken at the facility that opened in 1999.
Sam Scarantino, a principal with Quad3 architects and engineers in Wilkes-Barre, presented drawings of the plans and discussed the project’s development since it was introduced two years ago. Several working committees made up of the 11 members of the authority have been meeting on the project.
“Where we are is conceptually we’ve developed a plan that we think, along with your committee groups, addresses a lot of different needs and requirements and also meets a refined budget,” Scarantino said.
The scope of the project has been reduced from its 10,000-square-foot, “bridge-to-bridge” footprint between the two pedestrian bridges at the entrances. Instead, the outside work will be focused on the concourse level in the area of the main entrance to give it maximum exposure and allow for future expansion.
Inside, the plans call for a public lounge area at the upper-suite level created by relocating the sound system suite and some restrooms.
“What we’re trying to do is create this open lounge environment that people can look down over onto the edge of the ice and into the arena, so the majority of the arena as they’re looking up saying, ‘How do we participate in something like that?’ ” Scarantino said.
Authority member Alex Milanes wanted assurance the work would be of high standards to ensure additional money would not have to be spent on repairs down the road. “When I hear limited budget, I hear cheap,” Milanes said.
“We’re not going to cheapen up the project to make it fit a budget,” Scarantino replied. “What we may have to do is come back and make it smaller.”
The project will keep the arena competitive with other local and out-of-town venues, and according to a feasibility study, the market can support it, said Donna Cupinski, authority chair. “There is still room for something like this,” she said.
When she called for a vote on the expansion, Milanes objected, saying he needed time to digest what was just presented to him.
Along with authority member George Horwatt, Milanes voted against the expansion.
Horwatt opposed the plan based on his contention there is a conflict of interest on the part of authority Solicitor Murray Ufberg of the Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald law firm that also represents Quad3.
A complaint Horwatt filed against Ufberg last week with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was summarily dismissed Wednesday morning.