NOVI-When the city of Novi opened an ice arena in August 1998, officials expected to reap a $70,000 profit in its first year. Instead, construction delays and poor management drove the arena into what now amounts to a $350,000 debt.

But last fall the city hired a private management firm, and, as the result of a deal to allow the tele- communications company Sprint to build three cell-phone towers on the arena's grounds, the Novi Ice Arena is finally on target to make a profit. In December, the City Council unanimously approved the deal, which will give the city an initial $100,000 payment and yearly payments starting at $15,000 and rising to $25,000 per year over 25 years. Officials expect the Sprint deal to raise at least $585,000 over the life of the contract.