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New plan proposed to fund arena
Feb 17, 2006 12:00 am
February 9, 2006
A revamped proposal to bring a 5,500-seat events center to Lebanon may soon make the leap from the drawing board to "reality," Lebanon Mayor Don Fox said Wednesday, noting a new funding plan would require no new tax dollars.
Under the new proposal, Phoenix-based Global Entertainment Corporation (GEC) and developers still to be determined would be required to buy land, build the facility and be "obligated for" the necessary bond issue.
Fox said the project would require a bond issuance of $40 million, adding the proposal was well received by GEC officials during a recent meeting.
"Their charge now is to come back to me with a master plan … and the developer's name that they're partnering with," Fox said of the company. "They're putting this together now."
Once GEC responds, Fox said a committee consisting of Lebanon and Wilson County officials would hammer out finite details of the plan, including identifying a retail tax district near the arena.
State sales tax dollars not already earmarked for education as well as property tax revenues generated in the districts would be transferred to the Wilson County Sports Authority, he elaborated. Those funds, he explained, would go toward retiring the bond issue.
"That sales tax money when it comes over will be signed over to (GEC) by the city and the county … Any deficit will be their deficit, not ours," Fox said. "That's their risk of investment."
A secondary special tax district must also be identified as "collateral" in case revenues in the primary district fall short of projections.
Fox added GEC reached a similar funding agreement with the City of Prescott Valley, Ariz., prior to the arena's construction.
GEC officials have repeatedly stated they intend to bring a minor league hockey team to Lebanon as part of the deal. The company owns the 14-year-old Central Hockey League (CHL) which includes more than 20 minor league clubs across the United States, including teams in Memphis, Loveland, Colo., and Hidalgo, Texas.
In addition to the Memphis team, talks are underway to bring new CHL clubs to Clarksville and Cleveland, Fox said, supplying a Lebanon franchise with instant CHL rivals in the state.
Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman said the new proposal could "help" garner support for the events center among county lawmakers, noting it offers a new layer of protection for taxpayers in Lebanon and Wilson County.
"My main concern is I don't want the taxpayers of the county to be liable for anything if it falls through," Dedman said. "If you take the (Nashville Superspeedway), Dover Downs bought all of those bonds, and if it folds up, they're the ones. I certainly don't want the taxpayers of this county or the city to support something like that unless they're covered."
Noting the new proposal addresses funding issues raised by county and city lawmakers since arena talks began in 2004, Fox said Wednesday the project could now move in a "forward direction." Before any action can be taken on the project, he added the proposal would require endorsements from Lebanon City Council and Wilson County Commission.
"The taxpayer is taken out of it as far as being obligated for any kind of shortfall," Fox said. " … There would be no money that is not new money that we don't have now that would go toward paying this bond issue."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.