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City to take bids for event center financing

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This rendering depicts the proposed Downtown Community Facility.

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By Philip Sayblack
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rocky Mount’s long disputed downtown event center took its first step toward becoming a reality Monday night.

The Rocky Mount City Council approved a motion at its meeting Monday night to file an application for an installment financing contract for the planning, design and construction of the Downtown Community Facility. City Manager Charles Penny said the application will allow the city council to accept bids from banks to finance the project.

He said Monday night’s approval is just the first step in the process. He said that even being in its earliest stages, the center is definitely a priority for the city because of the role it is expected to play in the city’s downtown redevelopment.

“Building the center is part of the vision to bring downtown back,” he said. He added that the two-floor, 4,500-seat center could serve both as a single-use and dual-use facility with more than one event taking place inside at the same time because of the way in which it is expected to be constructed. Those activities include athletic events, concerts and even graduation ceremonies, to name a few events.

While the view of the center at Monday night’s meeting was largely supportive, not everybody was in favor of its construction.

Longtime Rocky Mount resident Matt Gilliland, a graduate of N.C. State University and N.C. Central University, spoke out against the center during the meeting’s public comment session.  

Gilliland said “expanding debt load is not the way to dig Rocky Mount out of a hole.”  He said the move to approve the finance application filing “assumes success,” adding that “it could cost the city a lot of money.” 

Penny said the center would more than pay for itself in the long run. He said that the expected direct spending that would result from the center’s construction would be roughly $264 million over the next decade. He added that while the council approved the filing at Monday night’s meeting, there is still a long way to go before the first shovel of dirt is dug up.

He said that even when the council agrees on a bid from one of the banks to finance the project, there will still have to be a public hearing following that, which would come later this fall. That would push the start of any potential construction to early in 2017

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