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Debt-plagued Clearwater Ice Arena could get new owner

CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Ice Arena could soon see new ownership as bids roll in to buy the rink.

Arena owner Mike Malki filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, claiming nearly $1 million in debt. Attorneys filed a motion in Tampa bankruptcy court last week seeking to sell the rink.

Broker Ken Mann says the arena has already received an offer — of $650,000 — from the founder of a company that owns rinks in Oldsmar and Westfield Countryside mall. That could be good news for skaters because, Mann said, any bidders would most likely keep the rink open for business.

But the motion to sell the rink hasn't gone over so well with Malki's lenders at Whitney National Bank, who sued him last year for not making payments on his $1.7 million mortgage since 2008.

They sought to foreclose on the arena and list it for public auction, court records show. The bank objected to the motion Monday; a Tuesday hearing on the motion was postponed.

J. Carlton Mitchell, a Tampa attorney representing the bank, offered no comment.

Formerly known as the Sunblades Ice Center, the rink, in a 32,000-square-foot warehouse at 13940 Icot Blvd., is funded mostly by figure skating fees, hockey leagues and rink rental. Court records show that revenues there topped $918,000 last year and $888,000 in 2009.

The only bid so far has come from Nicholas Flaskay, a founder of the Fun League Group, which bought rinks in Oldsmar and two Pinellas malls, Pinellas ParkSide and Countryside, in 1999. Another of Flaskay's companies, Globe Facility Services, once ran the Harborview Center.

Malki, who owns two gas stations in Clearwater and Oldsmar, said Tuesday he doesn't think the $650,000 offer is "going to fly," adding that first bids are rarely accepted.

"But you know what, these days, with this economy, nobody knows," he said.

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Debt-plagued Clearwater Ice Arena could get new owner 04/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 2:30pm]
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