|Mayor still plans to promote events center|
|Wednesday, August 29, 2012|
By SAM HATCHER
The president of an Arizona-based company engaged in a process to leverage support for a community event center to be built here said he continues to have positive conversations with a number of groups that can be strategically important to making the project a reality and ensuring its success.
Rick Kozuback, president and chief executive officer of Global Entertainment, visited the local area for a couple of days last week.
Kozuback attended the Wilson County Fair, met with a number of community and business leaders, and had what he termed as a “very positive” conversation with key executives of the Nashville Predators about that organization’s support of a minor league ice hockey team to be located in Lebanon that would be a principal tenant so-to-speak in the proposed event center.Kozuback said officials with the Predators, Nashville’s major league ice hockey team, continue to ask questions and want to be involved as plans and strategies for the community event center unfold.
He said following his meeting with the Predators last Thursday that he “could not be more pleased with their enthusiasm and support at this time,” referring to plans for the community event center.
Among those at the top of the list who see the community event center as a major leap forward for the City of Lebanon is Mayor Philip Craighead. Calling it a cooperative effort between city and county governments to establish a new identity for Lebanon and WilsonCounty, Craighead said the project will embrace retail, tourism and transit.
Despite his failure to gain a majority of the city council’s support for the project (council voted 3-3 with the mayor casting a tie-breaking fourth vote), Craighead says the concept is “still very much alive,” and, if re-elected, he plans to take it off the shelf and present it a second time to what will be a new city council in the fall.
He believes his support of the community event center, an arena for minor league ice hockey, and a special entertainment sales tax zone could likely become a central issue in the upcoming city election in November.
He sees this not only being an issue in his re-election bid but also becoming an issue in city council races as well.
Craighead’s plan to pay for the event center calls for the creation of an “Entertainment District Authority.”
Under this plan tax revenue generated from new businesses and other uses of what is now idle unproductive property within the district will be directed to pay for the event center.
The area includes some 376 acres situated between U.S. Highway 231 South, Sparta Pike, and bordered on the south by I-40.
In order to create the “Entertainment District Authority” a commitment from legislative bodies of the city and county are required as well as state legislation.
Late last year Craighead went to the city council with his proposal of an “Entertainment District Authority” but could not gain the necessary support to move the idea forward.
He recognizes that in order to get the concept off first base he’s got to have the council’s endorsement and that’s why he believes this will become a major campaign issue for himself as well as those candidates running for the city council.
While he sees the event center and surrounding entertainment district as being a “very good thing” for Lebanon, his critics have raised questions.
Some current council members point to similar projects in other areas that have failed and claim that the financial failures have greatly hurt those cities economically. They say there is too much risk involved for the city.
But Craighead on the other hand points out that the project will require no tax increase on residents or businesses and no additional taxes.
He sees the Cumberland Center, the name attached to the project, as creating more than 3,000 jobs once completed, attracting countless new restaurants and retail businesses and being anchored by a 150,000 square foot community event center with a seating capacity of 6,000.
The mayor notes that already development on the property set aside for this project is on schedule. A new Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant and a RCC Western Store are being built there now and other businesses are being considered as “strong prospects.”
A key element in Craighead’s plan is to let tax revenues within the special entertainment district accumulate until there is sufficient revenue to build the last component, the community event center.
He said the event center would not be built until the developers of the site had secured an adequate number of retail tenants.
“This whole plan has been conceived so as to not put the City of Lebanon at economic risk.
“The important thing to remember is that we are taking property that is either not being used now, or is underserved and making very positive things happen with it,” Craighead said.