The city council of Shreveport, La. has unanimously turned down a $100 million proposal to build a sports arena in that city, opening the door for Pensacola to be the pick for hosting the New Orleans Pelicans’ minor league basketball team.
In a 6-0 vote, the city council ceased any movement for the city to move forward on issuing $30 million in public bonds to finance the sports arena development. Councilmembers acknowledged concerns by many citizens that the city should make infrastructure improvements, such as water, sewer, and road improvements a priority. Councilman Jerry Bowman left the council chamber before the vote.
Prior to Tuesday evening’s vote, councilmembers listened to dozens of citizens during several hours of discussion. Supporters of the plan cited the opportunity to create jobs and improve quality of life, while opponents of the project raised concerns about the apparent lack of support to address the city’s infrastructure needs.
Shreveport and Pensacola are the two finalists for the Pelicans’ NBA G League expansion team, set to begin play next year.
While the Pelicans haven’t asked either city to build a new arena, both cities have floated such proposals, with plans for a similar complex in Pensacola having been discussed by Mayor Ashton Hayward and developer Jay Patel in July.
Under a plan endorsed by Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler, the City of Shreveport would contribute $25 million to the mixed-use arena project, with the balance of $75 million to be “invested by private partners.”
“This is a great opportunity for the City of Shreveport and the entire region to provide a significant economic driver in job creation as well as a family-friendly venue for our citizens,” Tyler said in a press release. “This development will also attract visitors from across the state, region, and nation because Shreveport will become a destination instead of a just a place to visit.”
According to KTBS in Shreveport, Tyler did not state whether her administration will propose a new plan.
The plan discussed by Patel and Hayward envisions an 80,000 square foot event and convention center, 6,000 seat arena, and seven-story hotel on one of two downtown Pensacola sites: the former Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant site, currently owned by developer Quint Studer; or the current site of the Pensacola Bay Center.
Details about the proposed public-private partnership, including cost, have not yet been released, but the project is expected to cost between $80 and $100 million. Hayward said last month that the proposal is at an early, conceptual stage, and many details have yet to be worked out. Officials are currently evaluating whether or not the 32-year-old Bay Center could be upgraded to host the team temporarily.
“We’re very close to finalizing deal points and just getting some T’s crossed and I’s dotted,” Patel said earlier this month. “Our project is not contingent upon the Pelicans, but rather we consider them to be another tenant like ice hockey. It would be nice to have them here.”
Pensacola and Shreveport were among a half-dozen cities invited by the Pelicans earlier this year to compete for the new minor league team.