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  • Owensboro, Kentucky 42301
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Volume 4 Issue 9

Framing the Issue

Where should we build the arena?

Developers push for suburban sites, citizens group promotes downtown

by Rodney Berry


Existing facilities are not competitive

Local elected officials will make a decision soon that will shape the image, growth patterns and distinctiveness of our community for decades. They will decide where to build an arena (also referred to as a multi-purpose events/convention center). Leaders agree that the 60 year old Owensboro Sportscenter must be replaced, and Executive Inn managers acknowledge that the hotel’s convention facilities are no longer competitive. Consequently, a multi-purpose facility that combines these two functions has worked itself to the top of the public projects wish list.

TIF can help finance public projects

When state government authorized tax increment financing (TIF) during the 2007 legislative session, Owensboro-Daviess County suddenly had another mechanism available to finance a $50-60 million arena and other desired public projects. Through TIF, the state designates a district with an established baseline of taxes generated from it. As investments occur in the district, government revenues increase from property, sales and occupational taxes, but a portion of the revenue that otherwise would be received by the state can be diverted to finance local public projects.

Appealing to developers and the state

It took little time for developers and community project advocates to realize that tax increment financing (TIF) was something significant. Developers can cluster hotel, office, retail, restaurant or residential projects in a designated district near the public facilities financed through TIF. That way public projects such as arenas, convention centers, stadiums, sports and recreation centers generate traffic that support the nearby private investments which helps developers lease their space.

The state sees it as a win-win opportunity, since without TIF, the projects are not likely to occur anyway and there would not be revenue to lose.

Two proposals under consideration

Now that David Hocker and Associates pulled out of the competition, two proposals are under consideration that will include a new arena/multi-purpose events center:

Gulfstream Development

This local real estate development group proposes an ambitious mixed-use development in the Highway 54 area near the future OMHS site.

Downtown Development Corporation

This volunteer citizens group is working with RBS Design on a conceptual site plan for the downtown area.

Details have not been made available, but both projects apparently will propose using the TIF tool:

Gulfstream will seek a signature TIF district (for projects of $200 million or more) that would divert state taxes for 30 years to finance the arena and various public projects within the district. The signature TIF option is only available through December 31, 2007. A suburban (Highway 54) mixed-use project would likely include significantly more retail than a downtown project.

Downtown advocates will likely seek a standard 20-year TIF district (for projects between $20 million and $200 million) supplemented by a state grant and local government support to finance the arena and various public projects within the district. A downtown project would likely include more housing and entertainment-cultural components.

Decisions to make soon

Because an arena is a focal point of any plan, to obtain state approval of a signature TIF district by December 31, city and county officials will need to make a decision soon. Many planning, design, engineering, tenant and financing elements of the proposal need to be secured in order to be considered by the state TIF review committee by year-end.

Advocates for one of the two options may be positioning with gubernatorial candidates and leaders of the state legislature, but local officials will make the final recommendation.

Extensive public participation is warranted

Clearly, this decision will have a powerful visual and economic impact on our community. Some feel strongly that we should not turn our back on the downtown; others believe that the market forces of suburban growth should be accepted and supported.

We offer the following outline for public deliberation on this pivotal community decision. You may agree or disagree with various points; you may have other points to add to the list.

We encourage citizens from all walks of life to participate. Learn about the issues. Listen to all points of view. Consider what is in the community’s best interest. Examine the tradeoffs. Come to an informed judgment. And share your views with elected officials and others in key positions of authority on this decision.



Which of these points do you agree or disagree with? Are there other points you can add?

Should local officials turn down an opportunity to generate millions of dollars per year to finance public projects through tax revenues that otherwise would be going to Frankfort?

Is a suburban mixed use project and TIF district the only way to finance the arena? What if there are other solid options: state funding, occupational, hotel or restaurant tax, etc.?

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds – support a suburban project but also step up efforts to do some things downtown?

If downtown is so important to community image and appeal, are we willing to sacrifice for a better downtown? Are we willing to pay higher taxes?

Can we shift some of the $30 million earmarked for drainage projects to finance some of these community projects?

Once plans, renderings and financial summaries are available, why not allow the public to vote on the options? …or at least share their views with officials?

What gives our community distinctiveness – the look and feel and offerings of our downtown or our suburban developments?



learn more

Gulfstream Development
2960 Fairview Drive
Owensboro, KY 42303

Downtown Development Corporation
c/o Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation
200 East Third Street
Owensboro, KY

City of Owensboro
101 East Fourth Street
Owensboro, KY 42303

Share Your Views

City of Owensboro

Mayor Tom Watson
Commissioner Cathy Armour
Commissioner Candance Brake
Commissioner David Johnson
Commissioner Al Mattingly

101 East Fourth Street
Owensboro, KY 42303

Daviess County Fiscal Court

Judge-Executive Reid Haire
Commissioner Bruce Kunze
Commissioner Jim Lambert
Commissioner Mike Riney

Daviess County Courthouse
Owensboro, KY 42303

Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission
Drew Kirkland, Chairman
Gary Noffsinger, Director
101 East Fourth Street
Owensboro, KY 42303


Share your views at letters@ plfo.org.

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