The Next Big Project Pt.3: cities who built new arenas - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

The Next Big Project Pt. 3: Looking at cities who built new arenas

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - The Mayor of Monroe's "Next Big Project" is a brand new Civic Center Arena. But the project is sparking debate over whether brand new really means brand new, or just renovated.

Last week looked at a city choosing to renovate, this week we take a look nearby cities who have chosen to build new arena's.

Build a new arena or renovate an aging entertainment venue? It's a question several cities have faced including Little Rock, Bossier City and now the City of Monroe. Roughly 20-years ago, leaders in Little Rock, Arkansas were faced with an outdated facility.

"It was built in such a way you couldn't really re-model without spending millions," said project leader Judge Buddy Villines, he says ultimately they chose to re-build it what is now the Verizon Center. "If we renovated, we still wouldn't be able to address all the needs in a modern facility of that kind," said Villines. Construction was funded by a 1 year 1 cent sales tax and state and private sector partnerships. The arena broke ground in the summer of 1997 and opened exactly two years later.  "It was the right decision there is no question everything we thought that could happen all the events and everything has happened and is happening," said Villines.

Around that same time, Northwest Louisiana leaders began realizing Shreveport's Hirsch Memorial Coliseum was out dated too. Built in the 1950's, it was failing to attract big name acts. That's when Bossier City Leaders jumped at the chance to capitalize on Shreveport's inability to update their facility. 

"We had that vision in 1998 and from there it moved very quickly," said Project Coordinator Pam Glorioso who spearheaded the project. She says the city council and mayor joined forces to break ground on the 45 million dollar arena. "I've actually seen the first pile go in the ground, to the last piece of steel go on the roof, to the opening of it," said Glorioso.

The city paid for the Century Link Center with 30 million dollars worth of cash from Casino Boat revenue and a renewed sales tax bond. After an aggressive 18-month construction deadline, doors opened in the Fall of 2000, changing the region forever. "The economic impact has been huge for this community, not just bossier city but Shreveport-Bossier and the northwest area of this state," said Glorioso.

The Century Link arena holds 14,000 people and many of those will stay at the local hotels and restaurants adding a boost to the local economy here. Glorioso says with each big event, they hire for 250 one-time jobs.

It's a boost to the job market and she says much of the success is the result of a good management company. Having just taken Bossier City through the transition, Glorioso has advice for Monroe leaders. "I would look not at just the City of Monroe, but also the surrounding communities," Glorioso says Monroe City leaders should consider the logistics of a new complex and can it turn the twin cities into a destination

 "Can they support it? Frankly can they compete with the venues in the area, this being one of those venues, we're only 90 miles away from Monroe, would a touring show stop in Monroe? That's something you need to look at," said Glorioso. 

On February 25th, in the fourth 'Next Big Project' special report, we talk with the Mayor of Monroe Jamie Mayo about his big plans.

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