3/11/09 -THE SK BASEBALL DISCUSSION BREAKDOWN - Now let's talk about what went down in the meeting today. Here are some snippets/highlights.
- Jerry Katzoff stepped up to the plate and made it clear that whatever they are asking for today has nothing to do with the completion of baseball stadium.
- "When we came into town - we were told don’t just bring baseball, build an retail district." - Jerry Katzoff
- SK Baseball believes 9,000+ people will come to each game.
- SK Baseball has spent $80,000,000 thus far on the stadium. And Katzoff broke it down in terms of cost: $20,000,000 of that came from rental car tax. $10,000,000 came from their partner Simon, and the remaining $50,000,000 have come from their own pockets. They estimate $25,000,000 more in costs to finish stadium and they have the funds to pay it.
- They have employed 275+ construction workers on daily basis.
50 full time employees to run Reno Aces headquarters, 200 game day employees, and concessionaire will have175 employees per game day as well.
- Doug Brown, branch manager for Devcon Construction, and other various union groups (Ironworkers Union, etc) spoke in favor of the project.
Dave Aiazzi: Dave had some initial questions on timelines (receivables) i.e. when construction would start on the phase in question. Katzoff answered construction would begin as soon as financing was secured, and re-iterated it would be much easier to find financing with these amendments in place. Later in the nearly 2 hour long discussion, Dave brought up some valid points, like the amount of public opposition when the Redevelopment Agency spent $16,000,000 to build a theater downtown that everyone thought would be an utter failure, and cited it as one of the first projects that started bringing people back downtown. and that one of the primary goals of a redevelopment agency is to raise property values. That's what the redevelopment agency is about. With land values declining downtown, he felt it wasn't right to sit back and not do anything. One of the real sticking points of the deal for Aiazzi was the $6.6 mil reimbursement for the Citicenter property, a property the RDA is obligated to purchase from RTC for retail development associated with the ballpark; a sweet spot when the RDA is struggling to decide how to pay RTC for that property.
Sharon Zadra: Wanted to know of any projects pending or proposed in Redevelopment Area 2 that would suffer or be handicapped if this action moved forward today, and wanted project-by-project breakdown. Mark Lewis responded with these:
1. UNR Gateway Project: Develop 8th and 9th street between I-80 and University…working with UNR to develop Memorandum Of Understanding, and would not be impacted by the SK Baseball amendments.
2. Tessera project, also in RDA2, from 5th Street to I-80, from Virginia St. to Evans Avenue, would have no impact because it would be a TIF district
3. Virginia Street Gateway project, involves gateway art on or around the Virginia Street I-80 Overpass, would not be impacted because other funding sources will fund this project, (such as Community Pride Block Grants)
4. South Virginia Street Landscape Project which involves streetscaping Virginia Street from Liberty to the Convention Center, would could potentially have some impact
5. Land Exchange Project - no impact
6. CAC Assistance Center, no impact
7. Autumn Village, an affordable Housing Project - no impact,
8. Park Lane Mall Project, tax increment from itself - no impact
9. Grand Sierra Resort project is on hold.
Sharon's main concern was the did not want RDA2 to be impacted negatively by actions taken for a project in RDA1. She remembered long ago when RDA2 was first created in 2005, they promised at the public meetings funds would not be transferred or used from RDA2 to RDA1 or vice versa.
Jessica Sferrazza: Jessica had quite a few things to say about this agreement. She didn't comprehend how the RDA Board could be sitting there discussing giving more funds to the baseball folks, while at the same time having to initiate early-outs of several RDA employees. Charles McNeely explained that buying out those employees had nothing to do with saving money for the RDA over the short term, and that it was a decision to accommodate financial conditions over the long term, not the short term. This didn't do much to convince Jessica. She mentioned that sure, back in the late 90's RDA spent $16,000,000 on a movie theater, and also the Mapes lot and Riverside lot etc, but RDA had the money to do that back then, and in this economic climate, Jessica Sferazza simply could not endorse what amounts to a 1.5 million dollar loan to the developers, after factoring in property tax. "If we couldn't afford to pay salaries within the Redevelopment Agency budget, how now can we afford to pledge money to baseball?" She concluded with voting 'No' on the project. Dan Gustin and Dwight Dortch recused themselves on the vote.
So, how do you feel about it? It's a really tough call for me. The thing that's so difficult for me, is I understand each council member's viewpoint on this, and partially agree with each of them. Katzoff's view is that the stadium will get more use, and more revenue generated, with supporting retail and activities for the stadium beyond the game itself; Dave would like to see the ballpark turn the lowering tide of property values downtown; Sharon doesn't want to see other projects in RDA2 be impacted by allowing the developers to retain more money, Cashell is happy to see a construction crew working downtown, and Jessica was visibly upset that the redevelopment board was even considering this, given the circumstances of the economy...often directly debating Dave, mayor Cashell and city manager Charles McNeely on the issue.
I honestly don't think the stadium will be as successful without supporting retail and entertainment connected to the stadium. How much less successful? Considerably, I believe. I know that the bars and restaurants around Pac Bell Park in SF are frequented long before and long after a ball game. I still think the benefits of this outweight the drawbacks...it will provide construction jobs, it will provide permanent jobs, and it will make the stadium more appealling. It was always the goal of the council for the baseball stadium to serve as a catalyst for a much larger surrounding retail district...and controversy aside, this is a step in that direction. I think in the long run, just as with the movie theater downtown, the council will look back on this in 5 to 10 years and realize it was the right risk to take.