Shreveport council votes against new downtown arena development

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The Shreveport City Council voted Tuesday not to activate bond money that would have seen a new sports arena come to downtown Shreveport.

The city council voted 6-0 against resolution 147, which would have activated the city’s bond team to begin exploring options for securing $30 million worth of revenue bonds. Those would have funded construction of an arena that would have housed the New Orleans Pelicans NBA G-League developmental team.

“If you vote ‘No’ today, that’s okay. But I’ve done my job and I will continue to look for opportunities to improve Shreveport,” said Mayor Ollie Tyler.

District D Councilman Michael Corbin said there is a “thick fog” and misunderstandings over the details of the project and wanted to re-start the process.

“Let’s reset this thing. I don’t see at this point that this is moving the right way,” he said.

Mayor Tyler unveiled a plan last month using $30 million of bond money from the Riverfront Development Fund for a new sports arena to house the G-League team as well as other sporting events. Shreveport was one of two cities in contention for the team along with Pensacola, Fla.

The arena was seen as the anchor of a mixed use development. A further $100 million in retail, office space, residences, and entertainment venues would have stretched from Cross Bayou north of the Hilton Hotel up to Spring Street near the Water Works Museum.

City officials said the development would generate jobs and tax revenue, attract tourists, redevelop “underutilized” areas of the city, and provide more opportunities for minority businesses.

Council members Stephanie Lynch and Willie Bradford co-sponsored a resolution against the project, believing any economic development from the project would not help Shreveport’s residents who need it the most.

“Most of the opposition I have received has been strictly about the arena,” said District F Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch.

“I did not hear one member of the public say, ‘Put me down for season tickets.’ I cannot in good conscience move forward with this project,” Bradford said.

The council listened to residents who were both in favor of and in opposition to the project. There had been a swell of negative reactions from the public in initial meetings and on social media ever since the project was announced.

Many cited infrastructure needs, rising crime and lack of permanent jobs as a reason to vote against the project. However, the Riverfront Development Fund is dedicated to economic development along the Red River and cannot be appropriated for other needs such as road repairs or public safety.

The vote followed a statement issued by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in support of the development, and a vote Tuesday from the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors to support resolution 147.