Thursday, March 05 2009
Plans are moving forward with the construction of a new downtown arena. A contract for engineers to begin a schematic design of the new downtown arena in Evansville is expected by March 17. Project manager John Kish also says negotiations to purchase the land for the project are in the appraisal process.
Arena official plans fall start for construction
The city of Evansville hopes to buy the D-Patrick Ford property on Walnut Street by August so construction of a Downtown arena can begin this fall.
Negotiations are "in the appraisal process," and a design team of engineers is being assembled by HOK Sport, the city's architectural consultant for the arena, said John Kish, project manager.
'That's moving on, and we'll be having discussions with the landowners,' Kish told the Evansville Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday.
The D-Patrick Ford property comprises several parcels that have a combined assessed value of $4.1 million.
Kish said he plans to have a contract ready by the commission's March 17 meeting to hire the engineers to start the schematic design phase. Construction of the arena is expected to take two years. The cost is estimated between $117 million and $127 million.
Hunt Construction, the city's building consultant, will host meetings later this month for local contractors to let them know what opportunities will be available for jobs during the design and construction phases, Kish said. He did not provide specific dates for the meetings, but said they would be scheduled "in a couple places around town."
Redevelopment Commission member Ted Ubelhor asked Kish whether the arena is eligible to receive stimulus money from the federal government.
"I am told that the stimulus funding packages are of a type that the arena would not qualify for," Kish said.
Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and Sen. Evan Bayh, D- Ind., had discussed the possibility of using stimulus money for the arena when Bayh was in Evansville in December.
The city plans to use a combination of revenues from Casino Aztar, tax increment financing funds and food and beverage taxes to pay for the arena.
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Dennis Avery to direct food and beverage tax revenue to arena funding has passed the House. If the Senate approves the bill, bonds for the arena could be issued by September or October.
Still unclear is how the ownership and management of the arena will be structured.
"I think we want to work our way through that to get the right answer, whatever the answer is in terms of the bonding authority," Kish said.
Kish said there are three main responsibilities: ownership of the arena, operating the arena and operating the event calendar.
"Those are three pieces that I think have yet to be decided," Kish said. "I think the momentum is clearly off and running with you owning the building from the bonding standpoint."
Roberts Stadium, which the arena will replace, is owned by the Evansville Parks Department. The Parks Department has a contract with SMG of Evansville to manage the facility.
One possibility is the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Building Authority, said City Councilman Curt John. The Building Authority owns the Civic Center, Vanderburgh County Jail and The Centre. John said Building Authority General Manager Dave Rector has run the Civic Center so efficiently that the city's rental rates have decreased.
Rector said he has had informal conversations with city officials about the Building Authority owning the arena. Under that scenario, the bonds for the arena would be issued by the Building Authority, which would manage the facility's operations. Rector said he expects the city to make a decision about the ownership structure within the next couple of months.