Members of the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board said the group will still pursue a downtown Terre Haute convention center, but not one attached to Hulman Center.
By a 5-0 vote, members dissolved a deal that includes Indiana State University.
The five members present on Monday also appeared to kick Indiana State’s two representatives off the board, and the university’s president and lawyer both said they’d not received notice of the meeting in time for ISU’s people to attend.
University President Dan Bradley and Greg Goode, the school’s director of external relations, had been representing ISU on the board.
In short, the CIB expressed its intent to independently pursue a downtown civic or convention center to be funded by roughly $25 million in local money.
The CIB did so by first amending its bylaws to remove any reference to the multi-party agreement.
The board also discussed, and seemed to discard, any “Phase 2” that would link a new convention center to the ISU’s Hulman Center.
“There is no Phase 2, I don’t think,” said Greg Gibson, representing the Vigo County Convention and Visitors Bureau on the CIB. “I think it is our intent to continue to pursue projects downtown — hopefully a convention center independently.
“ISU has got their money and received an appropriation, so I don’t think there is anything necessary from their side, and we have terminated the multi-party agreement, so I think we can move forward independently, correct?” Gibson said.
“I agree,” said Vigo County Commissioner Judith Anderson, a member of the CIB. “The last communication we had with them (ISU) ... their definition of Phase 2, if it ever happened, was to add on to the north end of Hulman Center, which we have no intentions [of doing]. That was not our wishes or vision. There is no such thing as Phase 2. I think we are just going to pursue a convention center.”
ISU not notified?
Contacted after the meeting, ISU President Dan Bradley said he had not been notified of the meeting.
“It is my opinion the multi-party agreement has to be dissolved before anything can be done,” Bradley said. “They can’t have a meeting without all of us present. The members are in the bylaws. They can’t have a meeting unless we all agree. We are happy to discuss the multiparty agreement.”
Bradley again stated, “They did not notice me of a meeting, and they can’t meet unless I consent,” he said.
Commissioner Jon Marvel and Judith Anderson referenced a letter sent Oct. 17 to Bridget K. Butwin, general counsel for ISU, from county attorney Michael Wright.
“I am writing to ask President Bradley and Greg Goode to voluntarily resign from the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board of Managers,” Wright wrote.
“Obviously, with the information presently known, the multi-party agreement is no longer applicable or valid and rather than initiate a proceeding to remove members of the CIB in a public meeting, the president of the CIB, Jon Marvel, asked that I reach out to determine whether President Bradley and Greg Goode would voluntarily resign,” Wright wrote.
Butwin said Monday she did not receive Wright’s letter until the day of the CIB meeting.
“We received the hard copy of the letter today [Monday]. It was postmarked the 23rd of October,” Butwin said.
Butwin said she called Wright about 2 p.m. Monday, but the CIB meeting had already begun.
“Mike Wright, county attorney, sent me an email with the letter attached after the meeting was over,” Butwin said. “President Dan Bradley and Greg Goode were not aware there was a meeting.”
During the CIB meeting, Wright said the purpose of the multi-party agreement was to assign appointing authority over membership on the board to entities other than those prescribe by statute. ISU’s rights to two seats on the CIB come by assignment — one from the city and one from the county, Wright said.
Commissioner Anderson then said, “We did receive notification from them [ISU], that they would not be attending any further CIB meetings, right?”
“Yes,” said Chairman Marvel. However, after the meeting, Marvel said he was referring to Wright’s Oct. 17 letter to ISU, not a letter from the university to the board.
During the meeting, Gibson moved to cancel the multi-party agreement and Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett seconded. Gibson, the mayor, Marvel, Anderson and Steve Witt (Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment) all voted in favor.
Marvel said the CIB remains committed to looking at strategic ways to bring a convention center to downtown Terre Haute.
“We on the board still agree that [a convention center] is something that this county and city needs to grow our downtown,” Marvel said. “It should be noted, we did cooperate fully with the state for ISU to get their money” for renovation of Hulman Center, Marvel said.
The CIB has seven members. The CIB will continue to have seven members, with two others to be appointed in the future.
Additionally, the board voted to terminate a contract with Nation’s Group, which aided with initial conceptual work on a new convention center attached to Hulman Center on ISU’s campus.
Said Witt, “There are a lot of rumors going around that the convention center vision is dead, hopefully this will help dispel that.”
The CIB stated it remains committed to $25 million from the city of Terre Haute, Vigo County and the Vigo County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“The commitments have not changed,” Bennett said.
The back story
In 2015, the General Assembly approved an authorization of $37.5 million to Indiana State to be used as a one-to-one match for the proposed $75 million project to create a convention and arena complex.
Other partners included Terre Haute city government, Vigo County government and the Terre Haute Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
But late this summer, Bradley said the university planned to forego its involvement in the convention center project and instead, seek necessary approvals to use the $37.5 million state appropriation for renovation of the Hulman Center.
He cited fiscal constraints and other needs faced by city and county governments — as well as lack of a financial plan to fully support the required match. Bradley also said the university didn’t want to risk losing the $37.5 million state appropriation.
ISU’s former partners in the joint project — the commissioners, the mayor, Gibson and Witt — then sought a 90-day pause on ISU’s request to the state, but settled on a 30-day period granted by state leaders. Eventually, the group decided to back ISU’s request.
ISU now plans a $50 million renovation of Hulman Center, built in 1973, with $37.5 million coming from the state appropriation, It plans to raise the remaining $12.5 million through means including gifts, cash reserves and debt not funded by state appropriation.