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LIBA Supports the Arena – February 08, 2010

To: Lincoln City Council Members
From: LIBA Board of Directors
Date: February 8, 2010
Re: LIBA Support of the Arena Project

Lincolnites have an important decision to make this spring when they will be asked to vote on a ballot initiative to approve a $25 million bond that will guarantee a funding source for a new arena.

LIBA believes the arena will bring vitality, energy and new development to our community. We believe it is a great opportunity with a low level of economic risk.

LIBA is optimistic that the City has established funding mechanisms (the turn back tax and the Joint Public Agency) as well as a number of public private partnerships with ISG, the University of Nebraska, the 2015 Visioning group, the railroads and the Breslow Ice Center that will provide sufficient funding to build, operate and maintain the arena. While LIBA is concerned about a property tax levy, we are more concerned about the potential loss of revenue from events that have already left Lincoln or are choosing not to come to Lincoln at all

LIBA is proud of the numerous hotels, restaurants and shops that Lincoln has to offer to visitors. However, with the loss of state volleyball and wrestling, Lincoln is losing significant sales tax revenue; furthermore, Lincoln could possibly lose the state basketball tournament. The arena will help ensure those events stay in Lincoln and would generate millions of dollars from visitors who come to cheer for their home team.

LIBA is also proud of the many employment and entertainment opportunities Lincoln has to offer to its citizens. However, we are cognizant of the fact that facilities such as the Pershing and Devaney Centers are aging and thus we are falling behind our regional competitors in attracting talent. While we believe there are many reasons to move forward with the arena, attracting young people to, and keeping them in, our community is certainly a significant benefit.

For all of these reasons, the LIBA Board of Directors voted to endorse the arena project.

The LIBA Board of Directors studied the current arena proposal thoroughly and had several questions and recommendations. Some of these have been accepted into the current proposal, and some were, unfortunately, not able to be included for very good reasons. Even though we intend to continue monitoring this process and these issues, the LIBA Board feels that the arena is an important next step for the future of Lincoln. We feel that the arena project is truly a community project that can bind together all citizens of our community and become a jewel in our Capital City that everyone can be proud of.

The issues we will continue to monitor with this project as it moves forward are: 1) Ensuring responsible management is in place to oversee the construction, maintenance and operations of the arena so that it has the greatest opportunity to see a profit and not rely on property tax dollars; 2) Opposing any plan to refurbish Pershing Auditorium. This could cost millions of dollars and still not attract the types of acts or entertainment the new arena would; 3) Pursuing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) be drafted that requires the university regent on the JPA be from a District that represents the largest section of Lincoln’s population (currently District 1). LIBA believes Lincolnites would be best served if someone from their own district represented them on this taxing authority; 4) Monitoring the cost of ground remediation. Because of the uncertainty of these figures, LIBA encourages the City to investigate insurance or a similar vehicle that protects the City and taxpayer from liabilities that may result from unknown remediation expenses; and, 5) If a sunset of the occupation tax on hotels, rental cars and bars is not possible at this time, then we support establishing a minimum three-year recurring review of the tax.

LIBA is proud to see Lincoln moving forward with the Arena Project at a time when many cities have been paralyzed by the economic climate. Lincoln will continue to thrive if the citizens of our community can come together behind a common vision and goal that unites us as a city to push forward and ensure Lincoln maintains and advances the quality of life we have all come to expect and enjoy.