Town hall on proposed event center sparks discussion

Michael Anton, committee chairman for the Grand Junction event center, speaks Sunday at a town hall discussion in the Avalon Theatre about the proposed city sales tax increase that would fund the event center and other improvements.



Supporters of the proposed Grand Junction event center encountered questions about traffic, parking, noise, safety and projected earnings at the latest of their informational meetings on Sunday afternoon.

Voters will decide at the April 4 election whether to approve the 5,200-seat multipurpose event center and renovation of Two Rivers Convention Center, funded by a one-quarter percent sales tax. The increase would bring Grand Junction’s sales tax to 7.9 percent, equal to the rate charged in Delta and Fruita.

Members of the committee supporting Referred Measure 2A talked with more than 140 attendees about the economic impact of the project, which would be anchored by a AA minor league hockey team. Supporters urged the crowd to consider the event center an investment in the local economy, not just a place for Disney on Ice, monster truck rallies or sports.

Three candidates for Grand Junction City Council — Jesse Daniels, Duke Wortmann and Mayor Phyllis Norris — also spoke to attendees and encouraged them to vote for the event center.

“At some point, we have to move the needle,” said Wortmann, adding that he didn’t want to vote against anything that could boost the economy in Grand Junction.

The event center is projected to host up to 12 main concerts or events annually, as well as up to five family-oriented shows and 38 home games for hockey.

There was some discussion of why the event center is proposed for downtown, which limits its size and raised some concerns with traffic and parking.

John Hager, a Grand Junction resident since 1974, said he’s concerned about people walking across First Street to their parked cars, after concerts or events.

“I’m not against this, I’m not for it, I think my biggest concern is safety,” he said. “I think this would work. I’m not real impressed with the location.”

Supporters said the economic impacts that come from drawing visitors into downtown, encouraging them to eat and shop, would be diminished by locating the event center elsewhere, such as Matchett Park, the fairgrounds or on 24 Road, sites considered when the event center was considered back in 2003.

They also said the intent is to combine the management of Two Rivers Convention Center and the proposed event center, which wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t located together.

Supporters also said an event center could trigger the revitalization of the lower downtown corridor, stretching all the way to the railroad tracks on the south. One of the areas mentioned was the property including the historic railroad depot, which sold recently.

Jodi Niernberg, a member of the committee as well as the co-owner of Bin 707 restaurant and a real-estate agent, said she brokered the sale of the railroad depot and that the owner has plans for revitalizing the station, similar to the multi-purpose remodel of Union Station in Denver.

“He has guaranteed that this will jump-start his project,” she said.

Steve and Kevin Reimer, who built hotels downtown in 2000, 2003 and 2011, told the group they have two more hotels planned if the project passes.

Some attendees expressed disappointment that the proposal is for an event center, not a community center, which voters have rejected twice. Members of the group working toward a community center, PLACE, told the crowd that they were endorsing the event center with the idea that the increased revenues it generates would provide the opportunity for their project to be funded eventually.

Dillon James, who recently moved to Grand Junction, told the crowd that he lived in Boise, Idaho, for 15 years and saw a positive effect of having an event center there, which brought the Steelheads hockey team as well as conventions, concerts and other events.

“I believe the difference between what’s going on in Boise and what’s going on here is an attitude,” he said. “It’s beautiful here. You’ve got biking, you’ve got hiking, you’ve got all these outdoor opportunities. And it’s still crappy here. Why? Because there’s nothing to do. You go other places for music and concerts.”

Event center proponent Landon Balding said Two Rivers Convention Center is turning away as many as 15 potential events each year because it’s not big enough to accommodate the event size. He also said his company, Monumental Events, estimates that between 33 and 60 percent of the tickets they sell to concerts are from out of the area.

According to a study by Hunden Strategic Partners, 385,000 people live within a 150-mile radius, an attractive potential market to concert promoters. The study also estimated the project would generate $30 million of direct new spending to the local economy.

“I came here undecided and I’m still undecided,” said Grand Junction resident Mike O’Boyle after the presentation. “What I’m scared about is the traffic.”

The support committee said they couldn’t specifically address the traffic concerns, as the stretch of First Street running along the west side of Two Rivers Convention Center that becomes Pitkin Avenue is technically a state highway and would likely be reconfigured. “I don’t know how we can honestly answer that today,” said Mike Anton, event center supporter. “But I do think in time, a lot of those issues will be resolved.”


COMMENTS

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I was there for the presentation.  Many excitable people there.  $65 million project. The people of our town are now being asked to each pay $2.50 per month to create this unrealistic gem. We were told, $2.50 dollars a month, That’s the same as six lattes.  Wow, what a grand example.  I don’t drink coffee.  If I did, I wouldn’t give that up for this unrealistic project.  City of GJ, start out by showing the community that you can properly manage what you already have. The Avalon for example.  It usually sits empty, come on, yesterday the place was saturated with those who will immediately benefit from this scenario.  They spoke of all these new jobs, hundreds upon hundreds.  City of GJ, please consider repairing the sewer stench in the main street businesses. Smell for yourselves, go down the Avalon stairs and it still reeks of raw sewage just like it has since I as a kid ggoing to the Cooper theater as well as every other business restroom on Main Street.  I expect a giant poop explosion down there some day.  Allow pot sales, use that money from that to create your community center. Figure out how to maintain what you have before asking us to pay more tax to something else unrealistic. See how you do with Las Colonias.  You attempt to groom businesses to move here and time after time they move on.  I’m a better steward of my money than you are. Monster truck shows, ugg, people please don’t support this.  It is a full blown loser from the start in my humble opinion.  The only people who will profit are those designing and having their hands in pie of creating it.  Same faces, same B.S.  It was like going to a church service where they are all preaching to each other.  lol

If the goal was really to create large numbers of long-lasting, well-paying jobs in the area, the people promoting the event facility would be lobbying to bring retail marijuana to G.J.  Marijuana is already a well-established industry elsewhere in the state. Marijuana is a booming industry that would bring new prosperity and revenues to town at far less cost than building an event facility. The event center would create lots of part time, sporadic jobs with no benefits, like ticket takers, popcorn makers and parking attendants, but with MJ we could create a huge number of stable, long-lasting, highly-paid jobs in cultivation, ag equipment sales, marketing and advertising, manufacturing equipment and installation, bud tenders, sales managers, legal experts, bookkeepers, accountants, security companies, and develop a new hospitality industry catering to marijuana tourism. The possibilities are limitless.

Also, the nominal cost of the event center listed in said to be about $65 million, but over the 30 year proposed financing term, the event center proponents’ press release also says the cost of repayment with interest can go up to $130 million. 

Another red flag is that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is backing this proposal. We need to remember that the chamber’s mission is to lobby for the financial benefit of its members, not for working people or the community as a whole. In the past the chamber has implored City residents to vote for things like re-zoning the Brady Trucking land by the Las Colonias bridge over the River in 2013, promising it would create highly paid jobs and new trails by the river. We approved it, but none of their promises came to pass. The land by the river remains a trashed out mess to this day, and no jobs were ever created. The chamber also supported Rick Brainard for city council in 2013, even after his arrest and guilty plea for assault—the biggest city council disaster in G.J. history. The chamber says “buy local” while taking its own business out of town; it uses a Denver law firm for its legal business and holds board meetings in Utah! The G.J. chamber has no credibility. If they say we should do something, you can be assured the right thing to do is generally the opposite.

The goal to create high paying jobs yet they laid off city workers and closed two motor vehicle of offices. Take care of your own people first!

Before this community embraced the boom and bust economics of the energy market it was an agricultural community and was developed as such through the extensive canal and ditch irrigation systems. Last time I checked people actually need food and textiles that are produced by this, a real and essential industry. If the city wants to spend 65 million dollars plus interest on something to create jobs and stimulate the economy how about putting into what we’ve got here and what sustains us for real not more entertainment venues where a hand full of developers and contractors line their pockets building arenas for a cultural pop trend. If you want another place to watch monster trucks build it yourself on your own property with your own money. This is a few unimaginative people emulating the “Olympics” mentality of build it and they will come, another burst of economic fervor instead of sustained and actual economy. You can eat corn but you cant eat baseballs people.

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