What’s better: A Coliseum replacement or a facelift?

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 5/10/2019, 6 a.m.
Here’s the choice: Spend $25 million to $35 million to revitalize the 13,500-seat Richmond Coliseum or spend $220 million to ...
Richmond Coliseum

Previously reported documents suggest the annual repayment could run $20 million or more in principal and interest, depending on the actual cost and the interest rate, or more than the new developments would generate.

In order to make the plan work, Mayor Stoney in November backed a proposal to take the increase in property taxes from 70 blocks of Downtown to help repay the Coliseum debt.

As yet, he has not sent that proposal to City Council for approval, but rumors are flying that he might do so in June or July. The council is promising to undertake a thorough review.

However, a $35 million facelift of the Coliseum could easily be paid for with taxes that would be generated by the proposed apartment, office, retail and hotel developments, most of which could still be done, figures show.

Instead of spending $450 million to $650 million to repay the principal and interest cost on a new, $220 million arena, amortization tables indicate that the total cost for fully renovating the Coliseum might only be $50 million to $75 million in interest and principal, depending on the interest rate.

And instead of spending $20 million or more a year to repay debt, the cost of repaying for refurbishing the Coliseum would be less than $3 million a year, the tables show.

Thus, the new development, much of which could still be built, could generate more than enough property tax revenue to repay the cost and still leave money to fund city needs.

For example, if $800 million in new development could be undertaken in the land around a refurbished Coliseum, that would generate $9.6 million in new property taxes, with $2 million to $3 million going to repay debt and the rest going to the general fund. If only $600 million in development could be accomplished, that would still generate $7.2 million in new property taxes, still providing extra money for the city’s general fund.

Refurbishing the Coliseum also would eliminate another major cost: Roadwork. The Farrell group wants the city to spend what has been estimated at $20 million to $30 million to raise the sunken portion of East Leigh and East Clay streets to create a better streetscape. So far, the city has not identified a source for that money.