Council OKs Establishing Fund for Amphitheater

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City Council last night approved establishing a $12 million fund for development of a downtown amphitheater and riverfront park.

The city intends to spend up to $9 million on the project, finance director David Bozanich told the finance committee meeting before last night’s council meeting.

To be built on the former Wean United property between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges, the amphitheater would serve as a companion venue to the Covelli Centre and attract outdoor concerts during the summer months, when performers prefer outdoor venues.

Financing for the project would include $4 million in 108 loans borrowed against future Community Development Block Grant allocations and using $5 million from water, wastewater and environmental sanitation funds to pay, Bozanich said.

In addition, the city anticipates raising $3 million in naming rights and other sponsorship opportunities. Home Savings and Loan Co. has expressed interest in a sponsorship, its CEO confirmed in October.

Those revenues would then come back before Council to be appropriated for the amphitheater and park or other purposes, Bozanich said.

“We’re not using any general fund dollars in this project,” he said. Should federal policy change and the city’s CDBG allocation be reduced or eliminated, debt service could be paid using revenues from the Covelli Centre, which has been operating at a surplus in recent years, or other potential revenue streams such as sponsorships.

Any such change in federal policy would take five to six years to go into effect, he added.

Council President Charles Sammarone said he supports the project but noted state auditors asked him questions regarding the city’s use of water and wastewater funds to support development projects, as with the city’s most recent audit.

Earlier Wednesday, the Board of Control approved a professional services agreement with architect Paul Ricciuti to evaluate water, wastewater and environmental grants, Mayor John McNally said. Under that contract, Ricciuti will review whether the work called for under the development agreements is performed and whether costs for such work are appropriate.

“We decided it was better to get somebody outside City Hall to do it,” McNally said.

In addition to working on the amphitheater and park project, Ricciuti will review work and costs for the Stambaugh Building hotel project as well as the YMCA of Youngstown’s renovation, the mayor said. He also has a contract to act as the city’s “eyes and ears” on the City Hall Annex renovation.

Council approved purchasing 1.2 acres of land from Youngstown Downtown Properties Inc., owned by the operators of The Vindicator, for $205,587 for the amphitheater project.

The property, on the southern tip of Phelps Street, would lead into the opening of the amphitheater itself, Bozanich said.

Pictured: The site of the amphitheater and park project.

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