The Edmond Sun

September 28, 2012

OUR VIEW: City still on track for I-35 plan

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The City of Edmond continues to wind its way through negotiations with developers on what could be one of the largest public-private projects in city history.

The city is already committed to $11 million in public tax dollar investments into a hotel/conference center project at Interstate 35 and Covell as well as a potential indoor sports complex. The idea is that the city purchases the land for both projects now and the developers have the option of leasing with a later option to buy back the land once the projects are built. The city also would contribute tax dollars to infrastructure improvements into the area.

The overall plan for the four corners at I-35 and Covell is large in scope. Potentially, residents could see two new hotels, the conference center, the sports complex, a movie theater, another big box store, five to eight restaurants and convenience stores all as part of the future development. This area also potentially could house a future fourth high school for Edmond Public Schools and Francis Tuttle Technology Center already has broken ground on its new campus facility on Covell.

The City of Edmond sees this area as a huge opportunity for potential new sales tax revenue, and plans to recoup most of its tax-dollar investment within 10-12 years when the entities buy the land for the projects they have built. Additionally, the city is not buying the land for all of these projects, but solely for the hotel/conference center and the indoor sports complex.

A city task force learned recently, that more public dollars may be needed to finance the infrastructure needs in this area, including moving up the timeline for the final phase of road widening on Covell.

There’s much to debate among these proposals, and city leaders have been careful to note during discussions that many details remain unfinalized and still could change by the time the final memorandums are signed. The trick for the city is to get these projects online as quickly as they can so that revenue starts pouring back into city coffers while at the same time making sure they protect all residents’ interests in our natural resources.

The upcoming 2013 Southern Regional Championship soccer tournament set to be hosted in Edmond June 20-26 is one really good example of why the city needs the development at I-35 to move ahead. This regional tournament will be hosted at the Service-Blake Soccer Complex on Danforth and is expected to bring in 208 teams from 12 states. Organizers estimate that 3,000 hotel rooms are needed for the anticipated 6,000 attendees for an event that could bring a $5 million to $9 million economic impact into the area.

As things stand now, most of the hotel rooms that will be booked and used during this week-long tournament will be booked in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities. Edmond hotels will accommodate about one state worth of teams, leaving the rest to find lodging and thus pay hotel/motel taxes and sales taxes to other cities besides Edmond. If the tournament goes well, then Edmond can anticipate hosting three more of these regionals in the future.

And this is just the example of one event for one sport. Edmond is home to other major sporting tournaments including the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma and the upcoming Senior PGA tour at Oak Tree National in 2014.

While we absolutely want the city to be diligent with taxpayer dollars and make sure they are getting the best deals possible, we see the need for moving forward with a project of the caliber proposed for Covell and I-35. As to whether the city should issue any new bonds for this project is a broader discussion that we believe the public should have after the Nov. 6 general election gives us all a better sense of the country’s and economy’s direction.