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Events center push begins, competition heating up
Jan 28, 2005 12:00 am
Details of a financial plan to bring an arena-style events center to Lebanon will be unveiled next week just as regional competition for the project begins to heat up.
Lebanon city leaders said Thursday a public meeting is scheduled next week to unveil a financial plan to bring Global Entertainment Company's arena deal to Lebanon.
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox said the finances would be similar to the deal that brought the Nashville Superspeedway to Wilson County and would involve the Wilson County Sports Authority.
Fox said the project would include "an upscale retail strip center" and a "tax zone" to set aside local taxes from the area to retire debt on the project.
"What we are talking about is investing revenue we are not getting now anyway into our future," Fox told The Lebanon Democrat Thursday.
The local sports authority was created through a state law that allows such boards to generate bonds to finance professional sports facilities.
Under the speedway's deal with the Sports Authority, bonds were generated to finance the building of the facility. The bonds were guaranteed by Dover Downs, the parents company of the speedway.
The Global Entertainment facility would feature as its anchor tenant a minor league hockey team that would play in a league also owned by the company.
Fox said the proposed financial deal may also bear some resemblance to the arrangement that brought the Dell Computer plant to Lebanon. City and county property taxes generated by the Dell Plant are earmarked to retire public bonds generated to build the plant. In addition, Dell must guarantee 1,000 full-time jobs at the facility to keep that deal.
Fox stressed the project's "master plan" would not "negatively burden local governments."
"The ripple economic impact in tourism dollars and retail development stimulated by the event center will be tremendous," Fox said.
County government leaders are also getting into the mix, with key county officials attending a meeting Thursday morning alerting them to the public meeting in the financial details coming Tuesday.
County Commission Finance Chairman Rusty Thompson said there was merit to the project, noting the facility would also accomodate large gatherings and events the county presently cannot house indoors.
"We would all love to have a nice entertainment center for upscale community activities," Thompson said Thursday night. "I hope what they unveil Tuesday will be something we can have a serious discussion about."
The events center would be a multi-purpose facility which would be able to accomodate minor league hockey games, concerts, conventions and any number of other events. The proposed facility would have an initial capacity of about 5,500, but could be enlarged as needed.
Thompson also alluded to the Sports Authority, and indicated using "familar" means of financing might give the project more appeal to Wilson County Commissioners.
"It has been suggested to Global Entertainment that we use some of the financing elements available locally that people are familiar with," Thompson said. "I think that if some of those elements are familiar it might make it easier to understand."
However, Fox also noted other cities in Middle Tennessee are beginning to show interest in the project.
Though no specific names were mentioned, Fox did concede there was competition for the project despite the fact Lebanon city staff recruited Global Entertainment to the area.
"Take into consideration we brought them here," Fox said. "We have shown out dedication to the project. ..."We realize other cities are trying to compete for this project, but Global Entertainment has made it clear they want to come to Lebanon."
It also appeared the project was on the cusp of receiving the endorsement of the county's largest business group, the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerice
Chairman of the Board Ken Caldwell said that he forseees widespread support such a project.
"It is certainly the kind of thing this committee would endorse," Caldwell said. "The Chamber of Commerce has been an advocate for an event center for many years. This appears to be a win-win for all parties."
Global Entertainment will present their plan to the Lebanon City Council in a work session Tuesday in City Hall.
Staff Writer Cori Galeano contributed to this story.
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.