Work on the proposed $50 million Jonesboro Sport Complex has been slow to start. One critical decision that will have to be made in the near future is how the financial structure for the project will be arranged and who will own the facility.
Attorney Michelle Allgood has advised the Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission to enter into an agreement that will allow for the complex to be owned by the Jonesboro Public Facilities Board. The board is a governmental entity that can issue revenue bonds for these types of projects. It operates in a non-profit capacity, and it will give city officials a layer of transparency, she said. She recommended that the A&P Commission remain as the facility operator once it’s complete.
Bonds could be issued from the start to pay for the construction, but there might be other options, she said. The project could qualify for tax exempt financing, meaning it could get a lower interest rate. Allgood said the financing could be structured in a way that interest only starts to accrue when specific parts of the project need to be funded. For example, if it costs $500,000 to start the dirt work for the foundation, then only that would accrue interest instead of the whole project being funded on the front end and interest would accrue on the entire amount financed from the start.
Allgood, who works for Mitchell Williams law firm, said several banks will be interested in an arrangement like that.
“You need to know where you are getting your funds from the beginning,” she said.
A&P Committee members voted in July to meet with the Jonesboro Public Facilities Board to seek out a possible ownership agreement.
Even as financial details are being ironed out, work on the final proposal for the project is ongoing, Steering Committee Chairman Kevin Hodges said. A series of nine public meetings was held earlier this summer. Officials wanted to inform the public about what is being proposed and they wanted to get community feedback about their wants and desires for the complex, he said.
“We’ve been working on this for several months. We feel really good about how it will lay out,” Hodges said. “It’s going to be a sizable facility.”
According to a feasibility study by Eastern Sports Management, the complex will generate more than $740 million worth of economic activity during its lifetime. That includes more than $500 million in taxable spending. ESM’s Economic Impact Report said the city would tally more than $7.6 million in sales and use tax collections. Another $8 million would be garnered through hotel tax collections and would generate another $6.3 million in utilities revenue. The complex would have a $22 million total impact on city coffers alone, the report noted.
The complex will have an aquatic center with a competition level pool, warm up lanes and other indoor aquatics. Among the features that will be offered will be a splash pad and a 22,000 square foot, outdoor aquatics area. The second part of the complex will feature basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts. It will also have synthetic turf fields, meeting rooms, offices, and a kitchen.
The public meetings have provided a lot of input, Hodges said. Diving boards may be added to the pool. A permanent seating area that could seat up to 1,200 guests is under consideration for the aquatic center.
At least 10 basketball courts could be built. The courts could be turned into 20 volleyball courts and 30 pickleball courts for tournaments. Better food options other than a traditional concession stand are being contemplated, Hodges added.
Members of the public have been asked to vote on the four design choices the committee is considering. Traditional, natural, modern, and lodge are the styles under consideration.
There were a few minor surprises when it came to facility requests, Hodges said. Several asked for cricket and rollerblading courts to be added, along with indoor practice facility space.
The project will be paid for with a 2% prepared food tax. The tax will generate about $5 million per year. City officials are contemplating how to finance the project either with bonds or other means.
The Jonesboro A&P Commission recently voted to spend $45,000 to hire ESM as a consultant when purchasing equipment and fixtures for the facility. The agreement includes a 3% procurement that would go to ESM for the total cost of the equipment and fixtures.
Hodges said ESM has experience setting up facilities like this and their expertise will be critical in acquiring the right equipment and fixtures. Once the complex is complete, ESM would like to enter into a management agreement, he added.
A&P Chairman Jerry Morgan said it’s taking longer than originally planned for construction to begin. But officials want to ensure the project is done right, he said.
“It’s taking a little longer than anticipated. We are going to have some issues. We are going to have some hurdles. It will take time,” he said.