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City, county to ask improvement board for $500,000 for arena plans

April 25th, 2016

News Coverage:

April 23, 2016

City, county to ask improvement board for $500,000 for arena plans

Kevin Leininger | News-Sentinel

With Allen County owning the Memorial Coliseum and Mayor Tom Henry promoting a new downtown arena, the two local governments have not always seen eye to eye on the project now estimated at $85 million.

But the city and county are cooperating on at least one thing: Both want the Capital Improvement Board to provide $500,000 for architectural plans that would go a long way toward determining what the 6,000-seat venue would actually cost to build and, as a result, its financial viability.

"We just want to drill down and get more infomation," said Commissioner Therese Brown, noting that both local governments are expected to sign letters urging the board to provide the funds. The Capital Improvement Board, which oversees the use of food and beverage tax revenues, will meet May 5.

As The News-Sentinel first reported, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. has been interviewing prospective architects and has funded the appraisal of property on the arena's proposed site west of the Grand Wayne Center. The private economic development group has also paid for a study that concluded the community has more than $350 million in bonding capacity to pay for the arena and other proposed projects.

When a 19-member study committee recommended moving forward with the arena last month, members said schematic plans should be completed as soon as possible to keep the project moving forward. The committee also said all potential sources of funds should be considered with the exception of property taxes.

Brown said the county's willingness to support a request for Capital Improvement funds does not mean it is willing to provide additional funds or support the project in otherf ways. County officials have expressed concerns the arena could harm the Coliseum, which showed a small operating surplus last year. They have also suggested that if the arena is built it should be managed under a new organization that could also oversee the arena and the Grand Wayne Center -- possibly with Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown at the helm.