Ballpark could get thrown a curveball
BY P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Sunday, October 05, 2008
6/30/09 at 3:39 PM
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Turmoil in the credit market may affect plans, mayor says.
It's not yet known what effect, if any, the strained credit market will have on getting a downtown ballpark built in time for the Tulsa Drillers' 2010 baseball season, Mayor Kathy Taylor said Friday.
"The market turmoil is certainly something that is very much on our radar screen," she said.
"How the government resolves the problem that this nation got itself into will impact anything the city is building, and the ballpark will be no exception," she said.
But Taylor said she is confident that with passage of the $700 billion bailout plan the credit market will open up; it's just a matter of when.
"It's not going to be instant. It will be a gradual thing, but if credit comes back in line that would be positive for everyone," she said. "It's hard to predict because this is a market situation that this country hasn't ever seen before."
In late June, Taylor proposed a $60 million ballpark project that includes construction of the stadium for the city's Double A baseball team and the acquisition of the surrounding land for mixed-use redevelopment.
A public trust — the Tulsa Stadium Trust — has been created to own the ballpark and oversee the financing, construction and redevelopment of the area around it. The city is the trust's only beneficiary.
The funding plan for the project is to issue revenue bonds and use a downtown property assessment district to help repay the debt.
Of the $60 million, $30 million is pledged by private donors, another $25 million would be generated over 30 years from a downtown property assessment district, and $5 million would come from the Drillers' lease.
Taylor said $30 million in private funds provides a cushion and allows the trust to manage proposals for financing and construction bids until the market situation is more clear.
But before too much is spent, the trust would want to be confident those bonds are going to be sold, she said.
"You wouldn't want to start a project you couldn't complete," she said.
Taylor said she is hopeful that people will be encouraged to invest in municipal bond issues such as the ballpark because they are far less risky than what some people have been investing in.
"We're watching the events very carefully as they unfold," she said.
Meanwhile, several steps still need to be completed before the trust will be ready to issue bonds, the mayor said.
Although approved by the City Council and administration, the trust must hold an organizational meeting before it can legally begin to act, Taylor said. The meeting is set for Nov. 5.
The city also must finalize the lease agreement with the Drillers. Although an agreement was reached "in principal," many details are still being worked out, she said.
Earlier statements by the mayor and ballpark backers indicated groundbreaking for the baseball stadium would happen in late fall.
On Friday, Taylor said the trust would break ground "in a manner that allows us to get the stadium built" by the Drillers' 2010 season.
The site nestles up against Interstate 244, bounded by Elgin Avenue and Archer Street and abutting the backside of the stores and offices along Greenwood Avenue.
The stadium is proposed to have 6,200 fixed seats, 25 luxury suites, picnic-style areas along grassy berms and amenities in common areas, including a party deck along the first-base line.
The site connects the Greenwood District to the Blue Dome and Brady districts, which have seen private entertainment and restaurant development.
P.J. Lassek 581-8382