News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 10, 2014

Hulman Center study gets go-ahead

$35 million project to come from sales tax

TERRE HAUTE — The idea of creating a sports district to help pay for renovations of Hulman Center took a step forward Monday. The Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety authorized a feasibility study and a lobbying agreement for the proposal.

The feasibility study, known as a Convention, Sports and Leisure study (CS&L), will be conducted by Nations Wright, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based professional services firm that specializes in sports arenas and convention centers. Meanwhile, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, an Indianapolis law firm, will handle the lobbying effort in the Statehouse.

The Nations Wright contract is not to exceed $20,000, said Chou-il Lee, city attorney. The Taft contract will not exceed $25,000. Lee is employed by Taft but will not benefit financially from the contract, he told the board. Another Taft employee is handling the project, he said.

Funding for the study and the lobbying agreement will come from the city’s Economic Development Income Tax, Lee said.

State Rep. Bob Heaton, R-Terre Haute, put forward the idea for a sports district for Hulman Center this legislative session. It is hoped the General Assembly could approve the measure this year, Lee said. It is joined with a proposal for a sports district in Indianapolis, which could help the effort, he said.

A sports district is established by the state legislature and allows a portion of sales taxes from specific businesses to be diverted back to a particular project – in this case, renovating Hulman Center.

The sales taxes used for the renovations would come from certain hotels in the area, Hulman Center and Honey Creek Mall, Lee said. Sales taxes would not be increased under the proposal, he added, simply diverted from the State back to the Hulman Center sports district.

Heaton told the Tribune-Star last month that renovating Hulman Center could cost about $35 million. It was first constructed by Indiana State University in 1973.

If a sports district is approved, it would be likely be managed by a board of directors with appointees from the City of Terre Haute, Vigo County, ISU and the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lee told the board.

It is estimated the district would generate about $5 million annually in sales taxes to pay for the Hulman Center upkeep and to pay off any bond debt issued for renovations, Lee said. Hulman Center also would charge fees for use of the facilities, including to ISU, Lee said. The idea would be for it to become self-funding, he said.

The entire process is still in its very early, exploratory stages, Lee said.

• Also Monday, the Board of Public Works approved using Transportation Equipment Sales Corp. as the vendor for six new buses to be used by the city’s bus service.

The total cost for the six buses is $545,394, said Brad Miller, Terre Haute’s transportation director. Each will carry 24 passengers plus two wheelchairs.

They are an upgrade from the smaller buses the city currently uses, he said. They are “medium duty” buses with engines and transmissions that should hold up better, Miller said. They are also expected to have better air conditioning systems than current buses, he said. The new buses are expected to be on the road in May or early June, Miller said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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