City invests $5 million in Pitt
Jay Benedict | Editor-in-Cheif
On Tuesday night, the Pittsburg City commission voted unanimously to invest $5 million into the Weede expansion project.
The city’s funding brings the total amount raised to $10 million. It accompanies $3 million PSU students voted to provide via student fees and roughly $2 million in private donations for the project.
The plans call for the construction of an indoor football field, track, and facilities like meeting rooms and a new weight room.
“We’re very appreciative of the city’s support for this project,” said Steve Scott, university president. “To get a 5-0 vote on a project this complex is just phenomenal.”
The the 50-year commitment includes $1.5 million up-front from the city’s loan fund for economic development, then it will pay $175,000 a year, for 20 years. There will be no payments for the remainder of the agreement.
“The up-front funding helps us secure an architect and create detailed plans for the expansion,” said Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations. “It should take about nine months for them to be drawn up.”
Naccarato says that once those plans are drawn up, the university will open the project up for bidding in the same process used for the Fine and Performing Arts Center. After a contractor is selected, construction time is estimated at 12-14 months. Breaking ground depends on whether or not the full money for the project is raised during the time that the architect is working.
“It’s a good step forward and good momentum,” Scott said. “We still have additional money that needs to be raised. In addition, the building still needs to be designed before we can completely move forward.”
Naccarato hopes to raise the remaining $7 million during that time, so the project can be bid-out as soon as the plans are completed.
“We’re already in talks with donors and we hope the remaining total will decrease significantly soon,” Naccarato said.
The proposed venue allows the university to host more events, and could host economic events for the city. The arena could host indoor track events and will feature a practice football field.
“This expansion is definitely going to positively impact our recruiting opportunities and development of student athletes,” said Tim Beck, head football coach. “Right now, our field, weight room, and meeting rooms are in different places: this expansion would give us everything we need under one roof.”
According to Naccarato, the idea of starting a partnership with Pitt State and the community started a long time ago, but the dialogue started about eight months ago.
The university committee visited civic groups and businesses to gain support before presenting their plan to the Pittsburg Economic Advancement Committee. That body passed the plan on with a favorable recommendation the city commission for up to $7.6 million.
“One of the best stories we could tell was the student support, said Naccarato. “We had students, many of which, aren’t even from this area who voted to invest in something that they won’t even get to see during their time on campus.”
That support helped PSU and a committee of city officials negotiate the final total and plan before the formal presentation to the city commission. The lease agreement also ensures the city’s access to the arena for the entire duration.
“[The venue] could bring in basketball tournaments and those people would support our restaurants and hotels and other things,” said Mayor John Ketterman. “The project has enormous potential.”
Pitt State secured financial support at the county level before approaching the city.
On Nov. 2, 2011, the Crawford County commissioners approved a 2 percent transient gas tax. Half of that tax was dedicated to the development and operation of the new athletic and convention center. Naccarato says that tax should provide around $50,000 each year in operating costs.
“This is another great example of the university and the city bringing people together,” Beck said. “We’ve been talking about this for three or four years and the city helped make it a reality.”