Partnerships – a word used a lot during Friday’s presentation about possibly building indoor ice rink and tennis facilities in Warren County – will be the key to taking those projects from dream to reality.
And, at least in the case of the ice rink, work behind the scenes to bring one high-profile partner into the mix gives local hockey enthusiasts hope, even in the face of some daunting price estimates revealed at Friday’s Warren Fiscal Court meeting.
The Nashville-based Lose & Associates consulting firm – hired by the county to conduct an $88,520 study of the feasibility of building the tennis and ice rink facilities – presented cost estimates, possible locations and revenue projections for the two separate facilities that have been pushed by local proponents of both sports.
In revealing a price tag of $25.9 million for a two-rink ice facility and $18.3 million for an eight-court indoor tennis facility, Lose & Associates President Chris Camp may have given the crowd of tennis and hockey enthusiasts a bit of sticker shock at $44.2 million for the pair.
“Both estimates are a little higher than what we had anticipated,” Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said. “I’m satisfied that there’s a desire in the community for both facilities, but we have limitations.”
Buchanon heads a county government with an annual budget of $42.9 million and current outstanding debt of about $50 million, so taking on two projects of this size isn’t possible now, according to Warren County Treasurer Greg Burrell.
“We’ll have to have strategic partnerships and sponsorships to make this happen,” Burrell said.
Buchanon echoed that assessment, saying: “To accomplish either of these projects, we’ll need partnerships and sponsorships. We’ll need an actively engaged partner for the ice rink. If all those things work out, I can see that we can accomplish this.”
The judge-executive tempered the expectations of the hockey and tennis supporters at the meeting, telling them: “We have some distance to go before we can see them completed. We have to be realistic in going forward with this.”
One local hockey enthusiast, Warren County Inline Hockey League President Shawn Rubel, is more optimistic because of the interest he says the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League has shown in helping build an ice rink in Bowling Green.
“The numbers are way up there,” Rubel said of the cost estimates presented by the consultant. “But that doesn’t mean the project is a no-go.”
According to Rubel, “The Predators have shown interest in getting the (ice rink) project done. It makes sense for them as a long-term investment. Their whole job is to grow the sport.”
The Predators have done just that with the Ford Ice Center, built in 2014 in the Nashville suburb of Antioch as a public-private partnership involving Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, the Metropolitan Sports Authority and the Predators. The NHL team is helping build another ice center in the Bellevue community near Nashville.
Even if the Predators partnership comes to fruition, fiscal court will still need to find a way to pay for a tennis center that local tennis enthusiasts say is sorely needed.
At an earlier fiscal court meeting, local tennis supporter Martina Fee indicated that growth in youth tennis in the county makes it important to build an indoor facility, something Bowling Green hasn’t had since the former Tennis Town on Three Springs Road was bought by Total Fitness Connection and converted to other uses.
Youths and adults wanting to play tennis in the colder months must travel to Owensboro, Nashville or Louisville, Fee said.
“We’re behind other communities in court time,” she said. “This is something that’s been needed for many years.”
Another decision facing fiscal court is where to put the ice rink and tennis facilities. Camp of Lose & Associates presented four possibilities: Buchanon Park, Russellville Road, downtown Bowling Green and the Greenwood Mall.
Those sites could be for one facility or both, Camp said, and he pointed out some pros and cons.
The mall, which has an 87,000-square-foot empty space where Sears used to be, is probably not viable, Camp said, because of “higher development costs.”
Camp said the unnamed Russellville Road site could possibly accommodate both the ice rink and tennis center, each of which will need about 10 acres.
Buchanon Park has the advantage of already being owned by the county and would lend itself to the tennis development, Camp reasoned.
A downtown site would be best for an ice rink, Camp said. He pointed out the advantages of being located in the Tax Increment Financing District.
“The sales tax and employee tax in the TIF district will generate more revenue,” Camp said. “I think that should be studied. It would also bring some synergy to the ballpark and other downtown businesses.”
Camp said no location for a downtown ice rink has been identified, and he said it would require approximately two city blocks.
First District Magistrate Doug Gorman, who is also chairman of the Downtown Economic Development Authority, said a downtown location for the ice rink “definitely has some merit” if the right property can be found.
Although the Lose & Associates report left a lot of questions unanswered, Buchanon said the two projects could move forward soon.
“We’ll try to get the information pulled together within the next month,” he said, “and bring this to a positive conclusion.”