Everett discusses idea of events center


Herald Writer

EVERETT — The city could score big with ice hockey fans, but the new project could chill plans a local service group has to better provide clothes to needy kids.

City leaders are looking at five downtown sites as the possible location for a special events center that could feature circuses, trade shows, performers and a minor league hockey team.

It could be a great feature for downtown, city administrator Don Hale said.

"What we’re hoping is that it’s a good linkage between Everett Station and downtown," he said. "It should spur quite a bit of activity."

A portion of one of the sites under consideration, a city block at Hewitt and Lombard avenues, has been the planned home of The Assistance League of Everett’s Operation School Bell. The group began raising money about a year ago to construct a building at that site.

The city recently contacted some of the group’s members to inform them of the city’s interest in the property.

"The reason we mentioned this possible location to the Assistance League (is that) we wanted to let them know so they weren’t misled," Hale said. "In our opinion, it’s a very desirable location."

Assistance League representatives could not be reached for comment.

Locations of the four other possible sites were not released.

Hale said, however, that each location is within blocks of the city’s new transportation center under construction along Pacific Avenue. Hale said an anchor tenant for the $40 million to $50 million center would be critical.

"We think ice hockey would be a natural," Hale said, adding that the Western Hockey League has other teams in the area such as the Seattle Thunderbirds. About 40 out of 140 or so events a year would be that of an anchor tenant, Hale said.

Other sporting venues such as minor league basketball could also find a home there.

"We’ve had a lot of interest expressed to us," Hale said.

The city has already looked at ways to pay for a special events center. The city would likely use a tiny percentage of state sales tax money that would be refunded to the city for some of the funding.

The 1999 state Legislature approved the funding mechanism, which requires a public facilities district to be established. Hale said he estimates the city could collect up to $20 million over 25 years from that tax.

The results of a study that shows the feasibility of such a center could be presented to council within the next month or two, Hale said. If the idea gets city council approval, construction would begin by January 2003.

Only one of the possible sites includes some city-owned property, Hale said. Property owners of some of the sites have not yet been contacted regarding the city’s interest.

If city leaders identify a site and move ahead to build a facility, they would negotiate deals for the selected property. Even though the city has the right of imminent domain — the ability to condemn private property for public use — Hale said that’s not a likely option.

The feasibility study will show how much a center would cost, identify possible locations, ideas on how the city could pay for a center and list what kind of events would make money.

Everett isn’t the only city working on a special events center. In Vancouver, Wash., the city is planning an $80 million convention and events center.

Vancouver is lining up several sporting groups, including a West Coast Hockey League team, minor league basketball, World Team Tennis and indoor soccer, said Steve Burdick, Vancouver’s manager of economic development services.

Vancouver teamed with private interests to build the facility, which should be complete by 2003.

The convention center portion there will even be named after hamburger magnet George Propstra, founder of the Burgerville fast-food restaurants. He donated $2.5 million for the naming rights.

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