Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Herenton Presents Fairgrounds Redevelopment Proposal

Posted on Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Mayor Willie Herenton’s calling his fairgrounds redevelopment proposal Project Nexus, since the land in question sits at the center of the city proper. But with his $150 million proposed football stadium at the project’s nexus, the name seems especially fitting.

Herenton presented his plan to the city council at a special executive meeting on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the stadium, the plan calls for the Kroc community center, recreational green space, and redevelopment of the surrounding Beltline neighborhood.

Herenton assured the council that his stadium could be paid for using state and federal funds, as well as local money already earmarked for bringing the old Liberty Bowl Stadium into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and stadium naming rights.

“The fairgrounds project is not about raising taxes or spending more money than we should,” said Herenton. “Nor is it about diverting crucial funds from public safety. It’s about striking while the iron is hot.”

In the presentation, chief financial officer Robert Lipscomb estimated the total cost of building a new stadium would range from $150 million million to $185 million.

About $10 million more would be required to spruce up the historic Beltline neighborhood, which surrounds the property.

As expected, there was no mention of keeping Libertyland, yet supporters of re-opening the amusement park held “Save Libertyland” signs while Herenton made his presentation.

“I think there’s still room for keeping the carousel and the Zippin Pippin’ in Project Nexus,” said Save Libertyland supporter Misty White. “We could even use the money from the use of those rides to help pay for the stadium.”

By Bianca Phillips

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