Council Committee Hears Strategy for Funding Riverfront Park

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City Council is expected to consider legislation authorizing the city to begin establishing funding sources for the proposed amphitheater and riverfront park when it again meets next month.

Members of Council’s finance committee heard Monday evening from Finance Director David Bozanich regarding financing for the project, which is anticipated to cost $8 million to $9 million.

The law department is preparing draft legislation to be introduced at the finance committee meeting before the next City Council meeting Dec. 7. The legislation would authorize the city administration to provide funding sources for the project.

“We’re at the point where it’s crunch time in terms of our go-forward strategy on this,” Bozanich said.

According to the proposal that Bozanich outlined for members, the city would take out $4 million in Section 108 loans against future Community Development Block Grant funds, to be repaid over a 20-year term, about $244,000 annually.

Another $2 million each from the city’s water and wastewater funds would address infrastructure needs related to those funds, plus an additional $1 million would come from the environmental sanitation fund. No general fund money would be used for the project.

“It’s an opportunity here for relatively minimal financial harm to the system and we accomplish a lot of good,” he said.

Bozanich also told the committee he has identified $3 million in potential sponsorship revenues for naming rights and other funding opportunities. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with folks who are truly interested in making significant contributions to this project here,” he remarked.

Last month, the city and Home Savings & Loan Co. confirmed that they are in talks regarding potential naming rights for the project. No sponsors were identified at Monday night’s meeting.

Council could use the sponsorship revenues, which would be paid over a 10-year period, to pay down debt for the amphitheater or any other purpose it deems fit, such as another capital project.

“We would go back through Council’s appropriations process to use as Council deems appropriate, Bozanich said.

“If we spend $4 million over 20 years, the $3 million is coming back over 10 years so there could be a net gain of $2 million to the system over that 20-year process,” he said.

The project would provide a sister venue to the Covelli Centre to stage summer concerts, when acts prefer to play outdoors, as well as community greenspace near downtown and a site for public events and community festivals that now tie up downtown.

Excluding the larger festivals such as the Greater Youngstown Italian Fest, the typical festival costs the city about $20,000 to $30,000 per event to stage, said Michael McGiffin, coordinator of events and special projects for the city. Diverting those events to a site that already has much of the infrastructure – such as stages — in place could save about a third of those costs.

“If we want to run this thing on rocket fuel, I think you can have it done by July 4,” Bozanich said. “More realistically it’s probably by September-October of 2017. That’s contingent on us all cooperating on what we want to do.”

The committee could not make a recommendation because it did not have legislation in front of members to consider. T.J. Rodgers, committee chairman, said he is in favor of moving forward based on what he heard.

“I would hope my colleagues would be in favor of it as well,” he said. “This would definitely be a huge benefit to the city and I think it could do just as much if not more for us as the Covelli Centre did.”

Pictured: Site preparation is underway for the proposed riverfront park and amphitheater.

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