Roberts recommendations go before board

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Melissa Greathouse

Some members of the Roberts Stadium Advisory Board are at odds on just how big the arena should be.

It was one of only a few disagreements during the meeting when the board drafted a report to give to Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel.

Gateway group consultants recommend the city build an arena containing 8,600 fixed seats with space to hold as many as 10,000.

The Roberts Stadium Advisory Board recommends the city seat up to 11,000.

"I think what you have to do in Evansville is look past your nose. Look outside the box and build for the next 50, maybe even 100 years," said board member Steve Bagbey.

At least one board member says he's concerned about exceeding the community's needs.

"If we build too big a stadium, it will cost tens of millions of dollars more money," Dennis Avery said. "So what we need to do is build for the future, but at the same time not providing excess capacity."

Board chair Wayne Henning says Roberts Stadium has 12,232 seats, but that's only because in 1990 remodelers shrunk the size of the seats to fit more people in.

"Clearly, we've heard from the community that the seats are not comfortable at Roberts and we do want comfortable seating," said Henning.

Hennings says during concerts thousands of seats can't be used to make room for the stage.

He says management company SMG told him having 11,000 seats and a larger floor for the stage might allow them to attract more shows.

That's not all the board wants to do.

"Athletic contests, plus the entertainment, plus the hockey, plus the University of Evansville and Hadi Shrine Circus, but more importantly, I hope the University of southern Indiana comes on board," Bagbey said.

For starters, Bagbey hopes USI will move its rivalry game against Kentucky Wesleyan from the PAC arena to the city's arena.

A spokesperson says the University has no plans to do anything like that, but will continue to consider the idea.

There is no timeline for a final decision on the number of seats or anything else.

The advisory board will present its report to the mayor by the end of next week.

Then the report goes before county commissioners and the city and county councils.

New Media Producer: Amanda Lents

The recommendation to build a new stadium downtown goes before the stadium board.

No final decision on location was made Wednesday night. The meeting was a chance for the advisory board to put together a list of recommendations to present to the mayor.

Some of those recommendations include building a new arena downtown with seating for between 9,000 to 11,000, researching a new contract with the University of Evansville and considering the best use for the current stadium site off the Lloyd Expressway.

Of course all recommendations are contingent on funding. The full list of recommendations is expected to be presented to the mayor within 10 days.

Roberts Stadium Advisory Committee Meeting

May 8, 2008 Draft Report

The Stadium Advisory Committee met May 8, 2008 from 5:30-8:15 p.m. to develop recommendations for the Mayor of Evansville based on their 11 months of research, listening and consultation with others.

The two major focuses of the meeting were to develop the Key Facts/Learnings of the past 11 months and to develop the recommendations to the Mayor regarding this project.

Forty-five Key Facts were offered by the committee members. Of these, eight were the consensus of the team as particularly important. These have been highlighted in the report, along with the "votes" each received.  Finally, a multi-part recommendation was crafted and refined by the committee until consensus was achieved.

Key Facts:

  • 1. Roberts Stadium was renovated in 1990 at a cost of $16.2 million. It seats 12,232 people. It has 15 corporate suites and no club seating.
  • 2. Roberts Stadium is a textbook "destination site". Destination site venues have not proven to be successful in stimulating ancillary economic development.(2)
  • 3. The problem with Roberts Stadium is that the floor is too small; there is no permanent ice making plant; the truck docks and marshalling areas are undersized for today's events; and the rigging supported by the roof is significantly under capacity for modern acts, concerts and other events.(2)
  • 4.   Roberts Stadium has served the community well for 50 years, but it is functionally obsolete such that it cannot be brought up to today's standards due to inability to "raise the roof" (as they did in Ft. Wayne), thus preventing the kind of floor expansion that is needed for the future. (7)
  • 5. The estimated cost of physical expansion to Roberts Stadium to increase the floor size, rigging capacity, truck docks and add permanent dock space would cost approximately $50 Million.  Even excluding the roof raise is very expensive as to be impractical. (1)
  • 6. According to the consultant's funding analysis, the only alternatives that would possibly result in sources of funds equal to or greater than the cost of a new facility are those alternatives which have a downtown location.  The downtown alternatives appear to offer added economic impact such as retail and other investments. (5)
  • 7. The consultant has determined the cost to build a 10,000 seat building located downtown will be approximately $92 Million, require a minimum of 3.5-4 acres and approximately 4,200 parking spaces sited within 2,000 feet of the entrances (within 2-3 blocks). (4)
  • 8. Downtown Evansville has a total of 8,300 parking spaces available made up of private garage spaces (2,418), private surface lots (2,417), city garages (1,579) and metered spaces (1,063). (1)
  • 9. The consultant has determined that potential funding sources for the cost of the new arena totals $111.25 Million made up of the following (naming rights ($14 Million), revenue bonds ($6 Million), federal transportation support ($2 Million), gaming revenues ($15 Million), TIF ($32.5 Million), CRED ($.75 Million), new market tax credit ($18 Million), food and beverage ($15 Million) and inn keepers tax ($8 Million). (3)
  • 10. The consultant readily stated that the funding analysis he presented was more directional than absolute in terms of sources of funds, plus he did not provide a multi-year projection (by year) of revenues and expenses, including debt service and maintenance reserves.  The cost of acquisition of the site is also likely to differ from the assessed value.  It would be appropriate to have a detailed financial forecast prepared by a firm or firms having significant expertise and experience in performing similar projections for other local governmental units and reflecting further due diligence regarding the various sources of funds and revenue/expense projections.
  • 11. The community input and media coverage of the process to date have been very beneficial with the apparent preference of the community being a new facility in downtown. (1)
  • 12. A major concern with citizens seems to be downtown parking and traffic flow. (3)
  • 13. Many citizens prefer an 11,000 seat arena, if economically feasible. We need to look to the 10-20 year future. We think we need the range of costs/economics for a 10,000-11,000 seat arena. (5)
  • 14. Many citizens feel a new hotel next to the arena is the most desired economic location. (1)
  • 15. Many citizens seem to prefer a new stadium built near the center on the Executive Inn-D- Patrick site. (1)
  • 16. Most citizens want no property tax increase because of a new arena. (3)
  • 17. The population within 25 miles of Evansville ranks toward the bottom of comparable markets; however, the 50 mile population and household inventory are relatively strong in comparison with those of similar size markets which have opened arenas recently. The Evansville metropolitan area's corporate inventory of 425 corporations and branches (meeting the specified sales and employee criteria) ranks 4 th among the markets analyzed and is significantly higher than the comparable market average. (1)
  • 18. The average annual events at Roberts Stadium currently is fairly competitive with the average number of annual events in most of the comparable markets surveyed. The average annual events for the last three (3) years at Roberts Stadium is 112, which is in line with the average number of annual events at comparable arenas.
  • 19. "I believe the downtown area is a city's heartbeat and a thriving downtown often reveals a strong vibrant city. As a thirty-something Evansville native who returned home after living in Indianapolis and travelling fairly extensively, I believe that building an arena in downtown Evansville is the catalyst Evansville needs to resuscitate its heartbeat. However, it has to make sense." (6)
  • 20. We should consider the loss of taxable revenue on a site currently paying property taxes. (2)
  • 21. Based on average attendance, the average is 6,000 for concerts; nothing close to 11,000. (2)
  • 22. We have heard from many that this is a "once in a lifetime chance" to do it right. We should create a facility we will be proud of. (5)
  • 23. We should build for the future, not for the past. (Ex. USI growth).
  • 24. We consistently heard from people that Evansville has momentum now. There is a vitality, action and a look to the future. The arena is a key element in moving forward. (2)
  • 25. We should make sure this facility is not simply large, but does things well (basketball, ice, events, etc.). (1)
  • 26. The study saw the Centre as a place to handle overflow and functions in tandem with the arena downtown (ex. Exhibition space). The events arena Centre and hotels will be greater than the sum of their parts. We need to consider where we will get the most potential economic development with location. (4)
  • 27. Many people question the revenue sources that came out of the study: TIF, parking, CRED. (3)
  • 28. There may be other opportunities for use that were not included in the study. Most dealt just with the existing stadium. There may be other opportunities. (1)
  • 29. SMG does lose some current opportunities due to shortcomings of the current stadium.
  • 30. The Mayor made it clear at the beginning of the process that USI and UE would both be instrumental in the development of this facility. (2)
  • 31. We think the arena should be used to attract others to our community: soccer, football, etc. We could be a regional capital for regional sports, collegiate sports and entertainment. (1)
  • 32. The negotiation process for some downtown sites will be easier and less costly than others (ex. Fewer land owners). (1)
  • 33. There are 60-75 activities in a previous survey that Roberts Stadium could not do (i.e. Automobile shows).
  • 34. We should figure out how to take USI into a new arena while not a detriment to UE.
  • 35. We hear "it would be wonderful if the $14M of corporate sponsorship came in early in the process." It would be great if this could be known. (2)
  • 36. Some of the funding in the study is already dedicated to other budgeted items (i.e. Food and Beverage tax goes to the Convention and Visitors Bureau).
  • 37. We believe the stadium will be an economic stimulator for the community. (3)
  • 38. We don't think we have exhausted the potential next use for Roberts Stadium beyond the recommended water park. This should be explored as part of the process. (2)
  • 39. We have heard that whatever happens to Roberts Stadium, it needs to pay for itself.
  • 40. There is nothing that says Roberts Stadium could not be redeveloped to support the new arena costs. (1)
  • 41. We could donate Roberts Stadium to EVSC, USI, UE and the Diocese of Evansville.
  • 42. We heard from many people that the seating should be comfortable.
  • 43. We think "optimal size" needs to be considered between 10,000-11,000 comfortable seated depending upon our ability to finance, events we could attract, and looking ahead.
  • 44. The process of a new arena should include the participation by the full community.