On first reading, Salina City Commissioners Monday by a 4-1 vote approved additional funding for the Fieldhouse Salina project.
In 2015 the city agreed to contribute up to $4.5 million to the project, with supporters raising private funds for the rest. Monday, commissioners approved contributing up to $9.5 million.
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.
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.
Local officials are working with the Kansas Department of Commerce to see if STAR Bonds are feasible to fund the project. To receive the bonds, a project must meet very specific criteria including things like generating tourism to the area that include 30 percent of new traffic from outside a 100 mile radius, and 20 percent from outside the state.
Several other major unrelated downtown projects are already underway, including refurbishing the Lee Building into apartments, and a renovation of the Townsite Building into apartments and retail space, complimenting the studios of KSAL Radio that are already on the top floor.
Though commissioners approved the $9.5 million Monday, it does not necessarily mean that much money will be needed for the project. Other revenue sources, like STAR Bonds, are still a possibility.
While construction has not yet started, the fieldhouse project has been progressing. A designer, general contractor, and owner’s representative are all under contract.
Monday’s approval was preliminary, on a first reading. The second reading for final approval will be next week. A super majority of four yes votes is needed for approval.
The goal is to break ground on the project at the corner of Fifth and Ash this spring, and then be open for business in the spring of 2017.
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