Friday, June 08, 2001

Arena tops list of goals for N.Ky.

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — A 6,500-seat, $45 million regional arena that would be built on Northern Kentucky University's campus tops the wish list that area business leaders want state lawmakers to fund next year.

        Along with the regional special events center, seed money for riverfront development in Covington and a $5 million museum at Big Bone Lick State Park in Boone County are also on the list unveiled Thursday by the Northern Kentucky Consensus Committee.

        “We feel that it's very important that we as a region band together and work together in making these projects a reality,” committee Chairman Gary Bricking said. “We feel that as the legislature looks at these projects, they'll see these as great investments in Northern Kentucky and for the rest of the state.”

        The committee process was started in 1990 by community and political leaders who felt that Northern Kentucky had a better chance of landing state funding was united behind common projects.

        The committee has helped lobby Frankfort for money for the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, the science building at Northern Kentucky University and the Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Newport.

        Officials admit that with the state facing a budget shortfall, it may be difficult to secure much money when the Kentucky General Assembly begins meeting in January.

        “That's why it's important that we have this process and people are united behind projects,” said state Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger. “We haven't seen all the budget figures yet, but we know money could be tight. But the state will still invest in good projects.”

        Even if the legislature does not fully fund a project, in most cases any level of funding helps, said Covington Assistant City Manager Tom Steidel.

        Covington is seeking money — the full amount has not been determined — to purchase 5 acres along the Ohio River to begin the groundwork for a 15-acre development from the Madison Place condominiums west to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

        Mr. Steidel said the city's plan call for private developers to build a project that would include residential, retail, entertainment and office space, and a parking garage. He said the Covington West Development could create up to 10,000 jobs and private investment of more than $800 million.

        Backers of the arena, including state lawmakers Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, and Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills, are attempting to find a corporate sponsor interested in purchasing naming rights.


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