Arena resolution gives city flexibility in KFC Yum! Center deal - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Arena resolution gives city flexibility in KFC Yum! Center deal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Metro Council's budget committee passed a resolution Friday that gives Mayor Greg Fischer the power to negotiate new terms for the city’s financial contribution toward the KFC Yum! Center.

With no discussion, the panel voted 10-0 in favor of the measure that now goes to the full council ahead of its meeting next Thursday.

The bipartisan resolution, which was sponsored by 10 members and introduced Thursday, comes a week after the budget committee tabled a similar ordinance.

It authorizes Fischer to craft a new agreement between Metro Government and the Louisville Arena Authority, but offers the city flexibility over the amount it commits each year. Unlike the original ordinance, the resolution doesn’t lock in the maximum payment the city already has agreed to -- $10.8 million in some years.

Instead, Fischer could negotiate an amount that doesn’t exceed the maximum – and could be less. The resolution still is contingent on the arena’s main tenant, the University of Louisville, paying more toward debt costs.

Metro council member Bill Hollander, the Democratic caucus chairman, told his party’s members at a meeting Thursday that the measure is a “better piece of legislation,” in part because any deal must return to the council.

“It also is clear—much more clear—that whatever contract the mayor proposes and that we enter into comes back to the council for approval,” said Hollander, D-9th District.

Metro government is considering changes to its arena pledge as part of the arena authority’s effort to refinance construction debt on the Yum! Center, which faces steep increases in annual bond payments in the coming years. The arena board doesn’t expect to have enough money to cover those payments as early as 2020, authority chairman Scott C. Cox told the budget committee last week.

The arena authority – a group appointed by Louisville’s mayor and Kentucky’s governor – also plans to seek state approval to allow a tax-increment financing district downtown to collect tax revenue for the project for an additional decade. It also wants U of L to contribute more toward arena debt.

Asked on Thursday if the council’s resolution – rather than the ordinance – poses an obstacle to the arena authority’s refinancing plan, Cox said, “I don’t think so. I think it’s helpful to us.”

Thursday’s Democratic caucus meeting was the first since U of L athletics director Tom Jurich suggested that the university might consider pulling out of the Yum! Center and said during a radio interview, “I don’t think we’re wanted down there.”

“I want to make sure we’re not playing politics in the media,” council member Mary Woolridge, D-3rd District, told her fellow Democrats Thursday.

“I had a problem with things that were said by Mr. Jurich the other day. … When we start airing all this stuff in the media, you know, it’s not good,” she said.

Jurich was more conciliatory in an interview with WDRB News on Thursday. He said he wants to “make it work” for Gov. Matt Bevin, who appointed Cox to chair the arena authority.

“We just want to help any way that we can,” Jurich said. “We said from day one when we were back at Freedom Hall and they were talking about an arena that we would be a team player -- and that’s all we wanted to do.

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