Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recent Arena News

The past two weeks have had several updates on the current state of the downtown arena’s development. Work continues on all fronts including design, bond issuance, and construction.

The first announcement was that the design of the structure is nearing completion and will be revealed at a special meeting of the Arena Authority before September 1. The interior designs were released several months ago, but the exterior remains a mystery to the community. The designers took many suggestions from the public, such as locations for entrances and exits, size of a public plaza, and a desire for the design to take cues from the river – but we’ll see how it all works together soon enough.

Earlier this week, Arena Authority Chairman Jim Host said he believes that bonds can be issued for the arena by mid-November at the latest, and preferably by mid-October. The earlier the date, the better, as current interest rates are below original estimates, and that could lead to significant savings on the cost. Bond underwriter Goldman Sachs will be ready to proceed as soon as the arena authority finishes the needed agreements, which could all be signed as early as September 1. The arena authority stills need to finalize deals with a concession provider, the University of Louisville, the Parking Authority of River City, designer HOK Sport, and the Kentucky State Fair Board. Any savings from the earlier selling of bonds will be collected into a “Rainy Day” fund that will be used in the event of a revenue shortfall before the city is asked to shoulder more of the burden.

Last week arena officials traveled north to Indianapolis to pitch their case to the NCAA for the chance to host the 2010 women’s volleyball tournament, as well as other future events in wrestling and ice hockey. Louisville officials appeared confident after the meeting and will travel to Indianapolis again in August to discuss Louisville's chance of hosting the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments (Louisville can't host the Final Four, but it is could host earlier parts of the tournament). Officials were buoyed by the meeting and the fact that early discussions in the arena’s design included recommendation from the NCAA to give Louisville a leg up on the competition.

Work continues at the future site of the arena. Humana is expecting to fully vacate their building on the site by mid-Fall. They are currently moving over 1,500 employees next door to new space in the Waterfront Plaza towers. Work also continues at the large LG&E transformer site, and is expected to be mostly finished there this fall as well.

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