The big press is on with only 4 days before election day on the event center. Today, Tracy Turbak-City Finance Director has a voices column in the Argus Leader telling citizens that the construction of the event center will financed in the same manner as other significant investments of the city like the Law Enforcement Center, Harmodon Park, main library expansion, etc. That is true, the second penny sales tax is used to fund construction of major investments. However, not to the tune of the investment of this event center and not for 23 years.
I appreciate the fact that the city says we can afford to take on this debt. The city has always been in good financial condition and we have elected and city officials to thank for that. However, when they talk about obligating the 2nd penny sales tax for construction costs for 23 years, I wish they would also acknowledge that that same 2nd penny sales will have fund any ongoing maintenance and infrastructure needs that will occur over the life of this construction debt.
Tracy Turbak goes on to say the event center operating budget is be funded by revenues generated by the operation of the event center and revenues from private sources in the form of naming rights, sponsorships and premium seating. He states "Superlative Group, Inc. determined the city could reasonably expect to derive private annual revenues in the range of $975,000 to $1.875 million." These revenues will be used to help fund the day to day operating budget of the event center and are "largely the reason the events center has been projected to operate in the black."
I wish the city would also address the fact that we will have to fund two event centers and that the Arena is not going away. Two event centers competing for the same type of events, just on a different scale. Why is that absent from this discussion of the big picture?
The fact is no one can "reasonably expect" the event center will operate in the black, not even the company hired to by the city to evaluate the Sioux Falls market. Not even the mayor and the finance director. You can hope it will, you can "reasonable expect" it will, but when all the other "event/convention center" facilities don't operate in the black in the Sioux Falls market or in other cities and markets, it is kind of hard to "reasonably expect" the Event Center will operate in the black. I would actually feel more confidence in their whole plan if they would just admit some of this instead of their pie in the sky, the city is right with the world mentality.
This voices column is timed to assure the public not to worry, we can afford to do this. At the same time, the mayor has informed his mid-management people that they will be getting a 2% raise in 2012 by memo dated November 3rd. Some city employees haven't had a raise in 2 years or more. Nice news for city employees, I think they deserve a modest raise. But after two years of being told to slash your budgets and no money for raises because benefits costs are too high and the economy was bad, the timing of this good news message seems pretty suspect - 4 days before the election. Votes!!!