As the City of Columbia explores how to pay for infrastructure, parking and possibly a baseball stadium at Bull Street, the estimated price continues to go up.
Council has already committed to spending $31.236 million at Bull Street, money that developer Bob Hughes will use for water and sewer lines and other infrastructure. In return, over the next 30 years, Hughes plans to build a massive live-work-play development there.
The City of Columbia has also committed to building two parking garages of 800 spaces each at Bull Street, provided Hughes meets certain development milestones. The estimated pricetag for the two garages together has climbed to $25,890,000, according to a presentation city staff made Feb. 4.
And then there’s the baseball stadium. Originally, Hughes suggested a stadium could cost $20 million; he’s since admitted that figure is outdated. Hardball Capital owner Jason Freier, who’s proposing to bring a team to Columbia, is pitching a deal under which the city would pay $35 million. But a consulting group the city has hired to help explore options for building a stadium is working with a pricetag of $41.8 million — the total projected amount to issue bonds, handle all contracting and due diligence and actually build the stadium.
In other words, city taxpayers are already on the hook for $57,126,000 at Bull Street. The baseball stadium would bump that price tag up to as much as $98,926,000, if one uses the consultants’ $41.8 million price.
Frustrated with the growing costs, Councilman Moe Baddourah asked Columbia Chief Financial Officer Jeff Palen, “When do you say ‘This is a firm number that we can go with’?”
Essentially, said Palen, he’ll have to continue revising his projections throughout the process.
At Council’s Tuesday meeting, Palen and the city’s and financial adviser laid out a few scenarios for how the city could cover all these costs. [View their presentation here.]
The basic funding proposal involves:
Whatever happens, Mayor Steve Benjamin wanted it made clear the city won’t be spending water and sewer funds on non-water and sewer aspects of the project.
“There was a consensus on this Council that water and sewer funds be used for water and sewer only,” Benjamin said.
But, pointed out Councilman Leona Plaugh, the city would still be “putting water and sewer funds at Bull Street over other [water and sewer] needs in the city.”
That discussion is somewhat moot, Councilman Tameika Isaac Devine pointed out.
“We are committed to funding the infrastructure for Bull Street, which is $57 million,” Devine said. “Whether or not we have an additional commitment, that’s going to be part of this discussion. The reality is we have a standing agreement with a developer and we are looking at [financing] options. We’re on the hook.”
The consulting group Brailsford and Dunlavey laid out two possible schedules for the baseball stadium project. One would have the city hiring a firm to both design and build the stadium, with construction beginning within months and a team starting the 2015 season in the stadium. The other, slower timetable would let the city contract a design and then take bids for a builder, and would have a team in the stadium for the 2016 season. The schedules are available here.