Pronews 7 Investigates: The future of the Amarillo Civic Center

Right now the city is repairing damage after a water main break flooded the Civic Center. The aging facility is over forty years old. For this edition of Pronews 7 investigates, we reviewed cityâ??s options to renovate the Civic Center, and how financing a renovation or expansion may require a general obligation bond.

The first phase of Downtown Development efforts, which includes a ballpark, a hotel, and a parking garage, is at the top of the cityâ??s agenda. While most city leaders agree that the Civic Center is outdated, the local government does not currently have plans or financing to update the Civic Center.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson told Pronews 7 that Downtown Development efforts that will attract a convention hotel wonâ??t stop with the new multi-purpose event stadium. He said the next phase of Downtown Development efforts will be focused on the civic center.

â??We want to see the parking garage, we want to see the stadium, but you canâ??t stop there, you really need to do something with the civic center,â?? said Jarrett Atkinson, the City Manager.

Downtown developmentâ??s first phase was intended to attract a convention center hotel. This public-private partnership meant that the multi-purpose event was selected to be built first, and as a result renovating or expanding the convention center was sidelined.

â??The one massive thing that Amarillo is missing is a convention center hotel,â?? said Dan Quandt of the Amarillo Convention and Visitorâ??s Council. â??We have hotels that have meeting space but in our business thereâ??s a real difference between hotels that have meeting space and a true convention center hotel.â??

The Amarillo Civic Center is an aging facility. It opened 46 years ago on September 2nd 1968 to much fanfare, but it really hasnâ??t experienced a significant renovation ever since.

Pronews 7 first told you that two water main breaks last week caused significant damage to the venue. In fact, the water main was as old as the facility, at 46 years of age. On Wednesday, Pronews 7 toured the damaged buildings and learned that the city will have to cover the deductible with funding that has yet to be determined.

â??The deductible for the city is a quarter million dollars, and that seems like a high deductible, but the city insurances all its facilities, hundreds of millions of dollars under one policy,â?? said Sherman Bass, the General Manager of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.

Even after the city spends 250,000 dollars fixing the facility, the Civic Center will still be outdated. Rick Matchett of the Amarillo Bulls Hockey Team says the complex need to be updated and expanded, and that weâ??re losing business such as concerts and sports events because of its simply out of date.

â??If youâ??ve got the big name acts, theyâ??re not going to come to Amarillo,â?? said Rick Matchett. â??Theyâ??re going to go to Lubbock because can sell more tickets.â??

The city options to finance a new facility are limited. The City Manager told Pronews 7 that the hotel occupancy tax is already being stretched to fund the new stadium, the new convention center hotel, the parking garage, and other current obligations.

â??You wouldnâ??t want to reduce your opportunity for success from those, and hat may very well leave you in a position at looking at something like a general obligation bond,â?? said Jarrett Atkinson.

Everyone Pronews 7 spoke with agreed that the modernization of the Amarillo Civic Center is a critical part of the next phase of Downtown Development. As a result of the decision that was made to lead redevelopment efforts with the ballpark, this by default leaves few practical financing options available for a modern civic center.