AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s meeting of the Amarillo City Council, officials are expected to bring back the conversation surrounding the potential expansion and renovation to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
City officials and city council members are expected to hear an update surrounding a report regarding potential public/private partnerships to fund the facility during Tuesday’s meeting, which will be at 1 p.m. in the Council Chamber in City Hall, located at 601 S Buchanan in Amarillo. Officials are then expected to vote on a measure surrounding funding for the project.
How did we get to this point?
The conversation surrounding the potential expansion and renovation of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex began in 2019. An initial plan for the project cost around $319 million, more than $270 million of which would have come from a bond proposal.
This plan would have expanded the overall facility, giving it a brand new arena, as well as provide an expansion of the facility’s exhibit hall and ballroom, provide upgrades to full-service kitchens as well as state-of-the-art technology upgrades. It would have also caused the current location of City Hall, at 601 S. Buchanan, to move to another site, adding parking as well as a park area in the process.
Through a series of public meetings, officials from the city of Amarillo wanted to get the citizens’ feedback on the project. City officials said at the time that the new facility would bring a “large economic impact” on the city, helping increase income to local businesses.
In January 2020, a five-member citizen executive committee presented a final recommendation to the Amarillo City Council regarding the future of the complex. According to previous reports from MyHighPlains.com, the committee said the civic center had “many deficiencies” and that the bond issue was “necessary to move forward.
“We saw what these vendors had been putting up with, you know, the hockey teams, the football teams, the lockers, it was so obvious that we needed to do something,” Julie Sims, a member of the committee, said at the time. “Really, we were working with substandard situations right here.”
City of Amarillo officials then scheduled the bond election for the complex renovation to be in May 2020, However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the election was then pushed to November 2020. At the time, officials said that residents would see a tax increase of around $11 a month for a home with a value of $100,000.
But for some Amarillo citizens, it did not make sense to vote in favor of renovations and additions in the midst of a pandemic.
“This seems like it’s a bad investment and at a time like this when we don’t even know how long it will be before we can sit by each other,” James Schenck, an Amarillo citizen, said at the time. ” I think we just need to hold off for a bit and instead of trying to all those other extra projects, consider just doing the arena.”
In the November 2020 election, voters overwhelmingly voted against the Civic Center bond issue, with 61% of participants voting against the proposition.
“Although Prop A did not pass, thousands of people believed in this critical project and voted in favor of redeveloping the Civic Center,” Build Amarillo member Jason Herrick said at the time. “This proves that Amarillo residents are ready to take our town to the next level. It’s extremely unfortunate we won’t be doing that in the near future because we have great momentum in Amarillo right now.”
Since then, city of Amarillo officials have brought back the conversation surrounding the continued want to expand and renovate the project. In June 2021, the Amarillo City Council unanimously approved a measure, entering in a pre-development services agreement with Garfield Public/Private LLC for professional services related to the complex.
Andrew Freeman, the director of planning and development at the time with the city of Amarillo, said this $494,200 agreement was a brainstorming opportunity for the city regarding the complex.
“Teaming up with Garfield Public/Private LLC is a good opportunity for the council and citizens to look for additional ways to help fund the civic center complex project that would not fully utilize property tax dollars to fund it,” Freeman said at the time.
What is being discussed and considered during Tuesday’s meeting?
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Amarillo City Council, city of Amarillo staff members will present and lead the discussion surrounding “key findings” from the Garfield Public/Private pre-development services final report for the redevelopment of the complex.
According to the agenda item, the scope of services that is expected to be covered during the presentation includes an evaluation of the existing conceptual design of the project, updating construction cost estimates, analyzing current operations of the facility as well as the preparation of a public/private finance plan for the project.
After that initial discussion, the Amarillo City Council will then be brought forward an ordinance from the city, giving them the chance to issue a combination of tax and revenue notes to help fund the project.