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An artist’s rendering of the interior expansion of the Coliseum Expo Hall. The County Council gave the proposed plan preliminary approval Thursday.

Coliseum plan gets first OK

$16 million Expo Hall expansion proposed

Allen County Council members gave preliminary approval Thursday to a 20-year bonding project for Memorial Coliseum’s proposed Expo Hall expansion, set to happen next year.

Current state law designates the Coliseum as part of a Professional Sports, Convention and Development Area, which stipulates bonding can only be extended through 2027.

To move forward, the Coliseum will have to get approval from the state budgeting agency and then return to the council for final approval, county attorney Bill Fishering said.

Under the law, sales and income taxes generated by the Coliseum and other nearby facilities are set aside for projects.

Although there “is a very minor risk,” county officials do not expect a shortage in funding or the expansion to affect property or county economic development incomes tax funds, Fishering said.

The facility currently receives about $2.6 million annually from the convention and development area, he said.

“The Coliseum generates that in about eight months, but if we were to incur a shortage, we would have to look at property or economic development income taxes,” he said.

The $16 million expansion calls for 20 annual payments of about $1.3 million each beginning in 2015 and ending in 2035.

The facility will be under construction much of next year, according to Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown.

The expansion will add 27,169 square feet to the existing 73,000-square-foot expo space and will be built parallel to Parnell Avenue, extending toward Archer Park, Brown said.

More meeting rooms also will be added, addressing a subject that has been an issue in the past, he said.

“We will be the only one in town to offer this kind of expo space,” he said. “We have lost some big events in the past, but this will put us in a different classification and enable us to be competitive and go after bigger events.”

More parking spaces will not be necessary, because the demolition of the old Memorial Stadium created 800 parking spaces.

“We will lose 300 spaces with the expansion, but we will still have enough parking,” Brown said.

When asked by a council member if the project was considered controversial, Brown said no.

Over 1 million people visit Coliseum events each year, many of them spending money on hotels, food, retail and entertainment.

“Looking at the big picture, we track economic impact,” Brown said.

“Last year, we had a $100 million impact and that translates to jobs.”