The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 05, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

Senate bill would bring county cash

$2 million-a-year raise for Coliseum, Grand Wayne

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Memorial Coliseum and Grand Wayne Center would see an infusion of cash under a bill passed Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It would increase the maximum amount of state tax revenue that can be captured by the city's Professional Sports and Convention Development Area by $2 million a year.

“By increasing the cap this allows Allen County to emerge from this pandemic stronger than before and allow the facility to continue to be an economic driver to Fort Wayne and the region,” said C.J. Steigmeyer, vice president of finance and chief operating officer at the Coliseum.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is the author of Senate Bill 384, which passed 13-0.

“Everyone has kind of fallen on hard times as we know. Especially in hospitality,” he said. “The Coliseum and Grand Wayne are bleeding right now.”

The bill has been pushed by the Allen County commissioners. They had also sought to allow 40% of the money to be used for operating expenses but that part was removed from the bill.

Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, said the Professional Sports and Convention Development Area now generates more revenue than the $3 million cap.

“We have raised the tide,” she said, adding that it's fair to allow the area to enjoy some of the new revenue it has created.

Under the bill, the first $2.6 million goes to Memorial Coliseum and then $400,000 goes to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board for Grand Wayne Center. That generally mirrors existing law.

But the possible new revenue of $2 million would be split evenly between the Coliseum and Grand Wayne Center. The money is to meet capital needs.

Steigmeyer said some projects they would use the funding for include a proposed $15 million expansion of the conference center and a new ice floor that would cost about $5 million. He also mentioned roof-line replacement and renovations to Memorial Hall.

Bart Shaw, executive director of Grand Wayne, said the money is needed for infrastructure upgrades and possibly could help with an expansion west of Grand Wayne Center in the future. That could include a ballroom, a rooftop venue and additional exhibit and meeting space.

An amendment was also added that would impact any future food and beverage tax pushed by the city of Fort Wayne. Mayor Tom Henry proposed it this session but Holdman says his committee will not act on any food and beverage tax proposals this year.

The language added to Senate Bill 384 says if the city imposes a municipal food and beverage tax and the amount of captured taxes in the sports and convention zone exceeds $3 million, the excess amount would go to the country treasurer for Memorial Coliseum instead of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

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