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Will amphitheater funding threaten other CDBG programs?

By William K. Alcorn

Friday, March 10, 2017

By William K. Alcorn


How spending $4 million of Youngstown’s federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the proposed downtown amphitheater and riverfront park will impact other CDBG-funded projects in the city was one of the concerns raised at a public meeting on the matter.

The meeting, conducted Thursday in the Covelli Centre’s community room, was an opportunity for public input on the city’s application to borrow $4 million from its CDBG funds, which would be paid back over 20 years with an interest rate of 3.75 percent.

Thirty to 40 people attended the meeting run by Bill D’Avignon, city Community Development Agency director.

In addition to the $4 million in CDBG funds, the city is creating a $12 million fund for the amphitheater and park that also consists of $5 million from its water, wastewater and environmental sanitation funds, and – it is hoped – $3 million from sponsorships, including naming rights.

The estimated costs of the project are: engineering/design, $800,000; amphitheater, $2.2 million; green infrastructure/combined sewer separation, $3.8 million; and other park amenities, $1.2 million.

Answering the “impact” question, D’Avignon said it is likely there will be proportionate reductions to public service, housing and public improvements. Also, the city will pledge as secondary collateral for the loan nontax revenues such as the Covelli Centre profits and ticket fees.

Other questions raised about the project, to be built on 20 acres of city-owned property along the Mahoning River from the South Avenue Bridge to just west of Hazel Street at the site of the former Wean United Building, were would the amphitheater be friendly to local music performers and would the JAC Management Group, which operates the Covelli Centre for the city, be hired to manage the amphitheater or would a new manager be hired.

D’Avignon said personnel issues would be handled by the city administration and city council, although Mayor John A. McNally has said it makes sense for JAC Management to handle the same responsibilities for the amphitheater as it does for the center.

2DeepEntertainment, however, an entertainment booking and event-scheduling business, has expressed interest in the amphitheater job.

Eric Ryan of JAC Management said if his firm is “fortunate enough to manage the amphitheater, it would be a community-friendly music center.”

When asked what would happen to the riverfront project if the CDBG loan is not approved, Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st, in whose ward the project would be located, said other funding sources would be found.

“This is something the city needs to continue bringing it together,” he said.