Friday, April 24, 2009

Westfield Mayor Loses His Mind

Tip of the hat to Advance Indiana for, again, beating me to the punch on this story.

Westfield, Indiana has a population of 11,911 as of the 2006 census. But that small size doesn't defer the Mayor of Westfield, Andy Cook, from dreaming of having the same problems with sports development and debt that its cousin, the big city of Indianapolis, has. The Mayor of Westfield has proposed turning Westfield into the "Family Sports Capital of America."

The best investigative reporter in Indianapolis, Indianapolis Business Journal's Corey Schouten reports:
The mayor of Westfield announced plans this morning to build a $60 million youth sports complex with a 4,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium, indoor sports facilities, and fields for baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse.

The sports facilities would anchor a 1,500-acre development by locally based Estridge Co. along Towne Road between 146th and 161st streets. The project, called Symphony, already features the Wood Wind Golf Club.

All told, the sports component and clusters of retail, hotels and residential development around it would require a public and private investment of $1.5 billion,

Mayor Andy Cook said.The city hopes to attract an unaffiliated minor-league baseball team to play in the outdoor stadium, and also hopes to lure the YMCA as a major tenant. YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has only one branch in Hamilton County, in Fishers.

The ultimate goal is to turn Westfield, a bedroom community without much of an identity, into the “Family Sports Capital of America.” The city has a population of more than 20,000 people.“

This is a public-private venture which will clearly put Westfield on the map,” Cook said in a statement. “We are in the process of working on creative funding mechanisms as we truly believe that we are bringing forth a tourism component benefiting the entire state.”

The mayor is lobbying state officials to create a tax-increment finance district so the city can collect tax revenue to pay for the public portion of the project. The city also is working with the Hamilton County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to create a Family Sports Advisory Commission that would coordinate the development.

Cook admitted the plans are ambitious, particularly in such a rough economy, and he offered no timetable for the project to get under way. But he said the city would be ready to move fast once the economy turns.

More than 45,000 people visited Hamilton County in 2007 for sports events, pending nearly $7 million, the visitor’s bureau said. The new facilities could increase that figure “many times over.”

Yeah, after seeing the problem Indianapolis has had with subsidies for its sports teams and arenas, why wouldn't you want to run out and spend $1.5 billion on this project? Okay, even assuming the new population figure of 20,000 is true, the $1.5 billion public-private partnership investment totals $75,000 per resident of Westfield. Yes, Mayor Cook's project has success written all over it. (That was sarcasm.)

By the way, we Marion County residents are beginning to learn that when our elected officials start talking about "public-private partnerships," we need to hold on to our wallets. Too often the term means public officials giving taxpayers money to their campaign contributors in the form of corporate welfare.

1 comment:

Sean Shepard said...

$60 million / 12,000 = $5,000 per