A proposal from Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford would put a domed stadium on hold at least until 2010 and shift funding for the dome to a massive revitalization project at Fair Park in west Birmingham. The city would also use school bond money for the project according to a memo shared with the city council Friday morning.
Langford presented his Fair Park plan to the city council in a breakfast meeting at the Summit Club. The mayor proposed building an "Olympic village" style complex including track and field, a competition swimming pool and equestrian facilities. Langford claimed that several retailers have shown interest in the Five PointsWest area because of the proposal.
However, the nuts and bolts of the financing were outlined in a memo written by Finance Director Steve Sayler. In the memo, Sayler proposes the city divert funding from several sources to spend $55 million on the Fair Park project.
In 2008, the city would redirect $19 million generated by the recent business license fee increase, in addition to $10 million from that same revenue stream in 2009. The tax hike approved by the council last December earmarked those funds for a domed stadium, but that project has stalled. Mayor Langford has disputed the BJCC as the best site and a group of Birmingham business leaders is studying the issue at the mayor's request. That report is due back in June, but if the Fair Park proposal is any indication, the city does not expect to break ground on a domed stadium for at least another year.
"Since the domed stadium/ exhibition hall/ entertainment district/ fair park areas have like purposes and the civic center is 12-18 months from needing access to the cash, a redirection of the 2008 and about half of the 2009 new business license revenue, $19 million and $10 million, provides a majority of the immediate cash needs for the fair park project," Sayler wrote in the memo.
The memo suggests using the remainder of the 2008 economic development funds, $3 million, and all of the 2009 funds, $10 million, for the fair park project. Those funds are generated by the one percent increase in city sales taxes proposed by the mayor and passed by the council last year.
Another $9 million for Fair Park would come from completed or inactive school construction projects - bond money left over from the so-called Bell Plan. In the memo, Sayler explains that the $9 million must pay for "education related activities such as the indoor track and natatorium which combined should exceed the $9 million in school construction money."
Separate from the Fair Park funding, Sayler proposes using $9 million of streets and sidewalks funding to pay for a trolley system downtown. The city would combine the $9 million with existing