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Events Center Funding Opposition

August 30, 2011, 4:59 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Events Center Funding Opposition
SIOUX FALLS, SD - In two months, Sioux Falls voters will head to the polls to decide the fate of $115 million events center. Since the city council voted to put the issue to a public vote, the plan has received a lot of support. But there are concerns over the plan to pay for it.

If Sioux Falls voters vote "yes" for an events center, the city would shoulder all of the cost. The plan strips out the private sector money promised when the conversation about a new building began. And one city council member worries it could take away critical money needed for the city's growth.

Sioux Falls City Councilman Vernon Brown may be painted as the lone naysayer when it comes to the events center. But he says that isn't so.

"Understand, I support and want an event center for Sioux Falls. But to do it right. And I believe it takes a new source of revenue to make that happen," Brown said. 

He disagrees with the funding proposal. If voters approve the new building in November's special election, the city could borrow the entire $115 million for the project. Brown expects the final bill including other costs to be closer to $125 million. He said paying that back puts too much burden on the facility, and the city, before it's even built.

"I don't think we can tell citizens with a straight face that an events center is going to make money for Sioux Falls. If it was that simple, the private sector would be doing it," Brown said.
A lot of people do favor a new building. Fifty percent of those asked in our KELO-TV / Argus Leader Poll said they want it built. The number dropped slightly when we asked the same group if they want to borrow all the money to pay for it.

Brown said right now, money to pay back the loans would come from other critical funds the city will need to deal with yearly growth. 

"That's going to take street expansions, fire stations, libraries, parks. All the things the expansion of the 2nd penny sales tax pays for," Brown said. 

While it would delay construction, Brown believes the city should wait to vote in the 2012 general election.
He said it's too big of a project, with too many unanswered variables that could be set back even further if the attempt fails come November.

"That's a big decision for this community to make and we only have two months to tell that story," Brown said.

The special election is set for November 8.

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