Salina City Commissioners Monday were reluctant to give final approval for additional funding for the Fieldhouse Salina project. In lieu of approving a second reading of an ordinance that would allow the city bonding authority to increase its funding contribution to up to $9.5 million for its share of the project, commissioners instead delayed the decision.
In 2015 the city agreed to contribute up to $4.5 million to the project, with supporters raising private funds for the rest. The project was initially expected to cost $9 million total. But that total was based on 2013 estimates. An exact cost of the project will not be known until April, but it is anticipated to cost more for a variety of reasons.
On a 5-0 vote, commissioners decided to table the final vote. They have scheduled a special meeting for 8:30 in the morning on Tuesday, February 16th.
Commissioners expressed several concerns in postponing the vote. Among the concerns was the new cost, and also a perceived lack of transparency in the project.
City staff will research among other things, scaling back the project and ways to save money in other ways.
City Manager Jason Gage explained that the vote was not to approve the project itself, but to approve a funding source.
City staff cautioned commissioners that a long delay of the vote could put in jeopardy the goal of breaking ground on the project at the corner of Fifth and Ash this spring, and then be open for business in the spring of 2017.
Fieldhouse Salina will be more than simply a recreation center. Rather, it will be a multi-use facility. It will house basketball courts, volleyball courts, and indoor turf areas.
Supporters say that the fieldhouse is necessary because there simply is not enough indoor facility room for all of the teams in Salina. Recreation commission basketball and volleyball leagues are at the verge of being capped, meaning that there can be no more teams or participants. Space at USD 305 facilities and at KSU Salina is utilized, but is becoming scarce. The addition of 7th grade sports is a contributing factor.
The fieldhouse will also be utilized for tournaments, and special events, bringing potentially thousands of people to Salina each year.
Once built, the fieldhouse is expected to help generate other projects, and investors. Potential projects include, but are not limited to:
- A high-end, 120-room, five-story hotel on Mulberry between Santa Fe and Fifth streets built by Salina-based Blue Beacon International.
- Two museums, including the “Wings Over Salina Aviation Experience” and an automobile museum.
- A bowling alley and indoor fun center
Plans also include narrowing Santa Fe from a four-lane street to a three-lane street. Traffic would flow in one lane in each direction, with a center turning lane. The redesign would open up more sidewalk space, thus opening up outdoor seating for downtown businesses.
All of the projects would be funded through private and public sources. Along with the private funding, a key component would be STAR Bonds, and also TIF financing.
Tax increment financing, or TIF, subsidizes companies by refunding or diverting a portion of their taxes to help finance development in an area or on a project site. STAR Bonds would have to be approved by the Kansas Legislature.
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