Consultants hired to look at arena plan
By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette
The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board on Monday morning heeded advice from city and county officials and hired consultants to take a closer look at financial and legal aspects of a proposed downtown arena.
Board members approved budgets not to exceed $10,000 for the financial work, to be done by Umbaugh Associates, a municipal consulting firm with Indiana offices in Indianapolis and Mishawaka.
The legal feasibility study, to cost no more than $9,000, went to Barnes & Thornburg, which has an office in Fort Wayne.
Steve Brody, who chaired the request for proposals committee, said after the meeting the studies should provide deeper information to answer big questions surrounding the proposed project such as how to pay for building the arena and, if it comes to pass, who operates it and how it will generate revenue and cover any shortfalls.
“There will be a gap (in financing),” he said. “I can’t tell you what the gap will be, but that will take some collective thought about how that gap will be filled.”
The CIB was seeking expert advice because it has not previously issued bonds to raise money for a project, said Nancy Jordan, board president.
She said the studies also will look at recurring operating and maintenance expenses and how to compensate for any lost revenue suffered by Memorial Coliseum.
Board members said the legal study would look at the legality of the board issuing bonds and owning and operating the arena. They also wanted more advice on the feasibility of increasing the innkeepers’ tax at the state level as a possible income stream.
Fort Wayne has a 7 percent tax, with Visit Fort Wayne now proposing a 1 percent increase, the board learned. That group’s presentation is expected at the board’s next meeting on Dec. 15.
Board member Tim Pape, a Fort Wayne attorney, suggested the legislature should be approached for a 10 percent tax, the amount in effect for other Indiana cities, including Indianapolis and South Bend.
The board was told the legal and financial reports should be finished by the end of the year, with an architectural study commissioned this year also expected as soon as then.
A site being considered is land occupied by fast-food restaurants at Harrison Street and West Jefferson Boulevard. The site is just west of Grand Wayne Center and across the street from The Harrison and Parkview Field.
The arena’s price tag, minus the cost of land, is pegged at between $60 million and $85 million.