Taking a Stand: Response to Downtown Arena - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Taking a Stand: Response to Downtown Arena

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By Vice-President/General Manager Debbie Bush

For the past two weeks, we've looked at why we should build a downtown arena. Now, it's time to share your thoughts.   We've received about 50/50 for and against.   First, let's look at those against the arena:

Robert says, "The Robert's stadium issue is NOT an economic development issue, it's a farce... The east side businesses that have already established themselves...rely on Robert's stadium businesses, especially restaurants and hospitality."

And Travis tells me, "Robert's location is the best spot for the stadium.  However, I think that the facility is in major need of a renovation."

Jerry says, "I would not expose my family to walking around downtown at night.  That is the very reason I did not continue going to concerts when they relocated to the Victory."

And finally Wayne says, "The arena needs to be back page news with what all is going on in this country.  But, let's cater to all those with a vested interest in downtown and build it all and any cost!"     

On the other side, Anita says, "I applaud you for taking a stand to build a new stadium DOWNTOWN.  I have lived in this city for over 20 years and have witnessed so many futile attempts to bring the downtown back to life...    I think the naysayers in Evansville have never lived anywhere to see the benefits."

Randall added: "I think that building a new arena downtown will create a synergy with the existing convention center, casino and hotels that will have a ripple effect on the entire downtown."

And Della says, "I'm glad our city understands that not only did we need a new stadium but downtown is the best location for it!"

And finally Griffco76 tells me, "Please disregard the comments of the chronically miserable folks whose brains and mouths are stuck on auto-pilot in the "no" position." 

Thanks to all who took the time to write.  You can read more of the comments below and on the comment sections of each of the other editorials.

To respond to this editorial, send an e-mail or call 812-253-0107.  You can send a letter to me at: Debbie Bush, WFIE-TV, and P.O. Box 1414, Evansville, IN 47701.

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E-mails:

Debbie,

I don't think we should build the Stadium downtown or anyplace else at this time.  I'm not at all sure what revenues TIFS and Tax Increment Financing provide but I feel that food and beverage taxes and Casino Aztar gambling revenue are not likely to be what experts have predicted for some time to come.  If revenues don't live up to expectations I suspect it will be Tax increase time.  A luxury hotel may be some kind of draw I suppose.  Parking to me is a gigantic concern.  I would not expose my family to walking around downtown at night.  That is the very reason I did not continue going to concerts when they relocated to the Victory.  A healthier downtown is fine but may not be the big recruitment draw hoped for.  The thing that will stop the flight of our younger folks is challenging job prospects.  My three children earned scientific and engineering degrees but prospects were nill.  They went to Indianapolis, Bloomington, and North Carolina for jobs.  Aditionally, I think the city has some major infastructure obligations that need to be addressed.

Jerry

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I listened to both of your reports on the stadium and appreciate the info.  I've heard a lot of comments from friends/neighbors that they think the stadium should be REBUILT (not remodeled) at its current location.  Their concerns mostly address the proposed location downtown:

  • Unsafe area of downtown-too close to the inner city instead of the river
  • Difficult parking (Evansville residents are not at ease with parking garages like residents of larger cities like Louisville and Indianapolis)
  • Difficult traffic flows - the current stadium offers excellent access directly onto the Lloyd.  How would traffic patterns change to accommodate large events?
  • Cost of parking downtown-it's currently free at the stadium
  • Overall cost of events would increase and make it more difficult for families to afford

I hope your future reports address some of these concerns.  Thanks.

Debbie

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Other items you might find interesting about Robert's Municipal Stadium and the last renovation.

Original bids for renovation 17 years ago were approximately $17,000,000.  That city administration only wanted to spend $17,000,000 (actually only wanted to spend $14,000,000 but agreed to fund $17,000,00 if bids could be reduced).  The city administration at that time only had three criteria that had to be met as long as the the renovation construction budget could be reduced to $17,000,000:

1.  The building had to be cooled (the HVAC system had to have air conditioning in addition to heating and ventilating).

2.  All seating had to be chairbacks (no bleachers)..

3. The new seating count had to be close to the seating for the original Robert's Stadium (around 12,000 seats).

Here's how the construction costs were cut (butchered):

The original HVAC design called for four (4) air handling units, one in each corner of the building.  These were reduced to two (2) units of a larger capacity with much higher air flow volumes.  This is why it is so noisy in the concourse areas (walkway areas outside of the seating areas).

Instead of using two smaller chillers for cooling, only one large chiller was installed.  Although this is the lowest first cost it is the most expensive way to operate the cooling system and provides no backup for partial cooling if the cooling system has a problem or fails.

Similarly, only one large boiler was installed for the heating system.  Again placing all of your eggs in one basket and increasing operational costs.

New lighting fixtures and controls for the lighting over the stadium floor area were deleted.  The lighting fixtures over the stadium floor ARE STILL THE ORIGINAL INCANDESCENT LIGHTING FIXTURES from the original building.  This lighting is so bad that when Evansville hosted an NCAA Division I Regional Basketball Tournament shortly after the completion of the renovations, temporary "TV" lights had to be installed along the bottom of the "skyboxes" to ensure adequate lighting levels.  These "temporary" lights still remain.  The original lights over the stadium floor have short lives and can only be relamped with the use of special equipment.

The concourse areas outside the seating area of the stadium were "stripped down" making them almost unusable for displays and exhibits in these areas.

All vending areas in the concourse areas were deleted and left to the vending contractor to furnish.

Skybox areas were deleted.  The construction of these were funded later as they were leased out.  These skyboxes have terrible sightlines.

The kitchen and food prep area was deleted.  This was left to the food services contractor to provide.  Typically the winning (lowest price) bidder/contractor for these services doesn't want to (and didn't) spend much money for these facilities.

All dressing rooms and locker room facilities were "downgraded".

Exterior parking lot lighting was reduced to the exent that it's dangerous.

Restroom area renovations were reduced to "cut and patch".  The current restrooms are virtually the same as the original restrooms.

Seating upgrades were "redesigned" to minimize cost but at the expense of narrow seats, no knee room, and absurdly little handicap access.

The PA system design was reduced to 1960's  technology instead of "state of the art".  (i believe that it may already have been replaced but it's still inadequate.



Bottom line;  If the original $25,000,000 had been allocated we would'nt be talking about a new stadium/arena today.  The only thing that would be diffeent from that design and today's design is, yes, the current structural system at Robert's stadium is inadequate to support any current national touring show and issue would need to addressed.
Anna

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 Vague and pitiful rationalizations of the Arena issue, that leaves me in contempt of you and your psudo-intellectual conclusions.. I am amazed

that your Ego can see your self as an important voice in this issue.

Sincerely, Terry

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I applaud  you for taking a stand to build a new stadium DOWNTOWN.

I have lived in this city for over 20 years and have witnessed so many futile attempts to bring the downtown back to life. 

Having lived in Cincinnati when the new stadium built for the Big Red Machine brought the downtown back to life and the catalyst for so many other great facilities.  Also lived in Indianapolis when it was called "Indianoplace".  Then came the Hoosier Dome, Union Station, Conseco Fieldhouse, Circle Center Mall and the list goes on.  With all these wonderful facitlities came great entertainment, wonderful restaurants, shopping and upscale hotels.

I think the naysayers in Evansville have never lived anywhere to see the benefits of a downtown facility.

Keep up the positive "Take a Stand" editorials !!!

Anita

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i'm glad to see wfie also supporting the new downtown arena... our current stadium is showing its age and needs to be replaced. i think that building a new arena downtown will create a synergy with the existing convention center, casino, and hotels that will have a ripple effect on the entire downtown. it will be an investment in a state-of-the art facility that will serve the tri-state for generations to come.

Randall

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Let me make something clear.... my father fought for economic development in the face of adversity for years.  I understand it's importance.  The Robert's stadium issue is NOT an economic development issue, it's a farce.  It's the passion of people who want to revitalize downtown, or so they say.

The problem is many fold, but here's my fundamental issues.  The east side businesses that have already established themselves, and now been incorporated into the city, rely on Robert's stadium business, especially restaurants and hospitality.  The downtown district failed for reasons that have not yet been addressed in terms of infrastructure.  How legal is it to take business from those that are established to hope to allure business, which, although sounds promising will prove to be transients.

Downtown is doing a good job of redeveloping, but a stadium which has more than doubled in estimated costs, is not the answer.  Too much money is going out, 130 million for a stadium, double that for school tax levy, and storm sewers that have not been fixed with a potential 1/4 of a billion dollar price tag.  Evansville is coming dangerously close to a billion in spending.  We haven't even looked at infrastructure changes to allow for the stadium.

Furthermore, if built on d-pats, site, it becomes a 130 million dollar public subsidy of the Executive Inn...Owensboro's been down that road.

Remodel, and renovate Robert's.... allow a public referendum.  This is a blind act of passion of all involved, economic development requires thought and planning.  There is just too much emotion here, and spending based on dollars that may not be here (watch Casino Aztar close shop, it will happen) is not wise.
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Robert

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I feel that the current Robert's location is the best spot for the stadium. However, I think that the facility is in major need of a renovation. I have played on the floor, the floor has horrible dead spots which would call for a new floor, and the locker rooms need some work as well. In short the entire stadium needs a face lift, but I think the current location is best suited. The parking situation is going to be horrific along with the traffic congestion, as well as there are not NEAR enough eateries downtown. Downtown will have to grow three fold in order to accommodate the idea that is intended for the stadium. 

Travis

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