Sparks won’t spend stimulus funds on arena plan |

Sparks won’t spend stimulus funds on arena plan

SPARKS (AP) – The developer who wants to try to attract a minor league hockey team to a proposed sports arena at the Sparks Marina is being snubbed by the Sparks City Council.

Council members told officials for RED Development on Monday they like the idea of building the arena with an ice rink at the new Legends shopping and entertainment center on U.S. Interstate 80 just east of Reno.

But they also agreed they are not willing to part with any of the city’s federal appropriations or stimulus funds the developer said are needed to help finance the project.

Steve Graham, RED’s vice president for destination development, said the Kansas City-based developer can afford to invest about $10.5 million in the proposed $69 million arena.

The facility, with a capacity of about 7,500, could potentially house a professional minor league hockey team along with local sports and concerts. It would create more than 300 jobs and have an estimated $645 million impact on the regional economy, according to a study by an outside consulting firm hired by RED.

Councilwoman Julia Ratti said the city already has ranked priorities for the federal money.

“This doesn’t make my top five, not top 10, not even top 20,” Ratti said.

“There are so many things that we would like to have from the federal government that would have been great for the city of Sparks,” she said. “If I were a lawmaker, I would not support it, so I cannot go and ask for this.”

Sparks government affairs manager Rob Joiner said the city’s top priorities for federal funding include plans to generate methane energy for the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, expand a community center, address traffic congestion on the Pyramid Highway and relocate the Sparks rail yard.

“What can I say to my federal reps when we have huge unemployment and other problems?” Councilman Mike Carrigan asked.

“They get 200 appropriations requests. How am I supposed to ask them for money and not get laughed out of Washington, D.C.? I would love to have it. When you come forward with $69 million of private money, I will be the first one to cut the ribbon on it.”

The building would be modeled after recently constructed arenas that house minor league hockey teams in Allen, Texas, and Independence, Mo., RED said.

Other portions of the $1.1 billion Legends marina complex that has opened in phases in the past year received help from city-issued Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue bonds, or STAR bonds, issued in the millions.

Plans to build a hotel-casino on the shore of the man-made marina were put on hold last year due to the poor economic climate.