Future of Irving entertainment complex in question

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on December 16, 2010 at 11:46 PM

Updated Saturday, Dec 18 at 10:19 AM

LAS COLINAS - The huge entertainment complex planned for Las Colinas has suffered a potentially major setback.

The Texas Attorney General said Irving officials cannot use state liquor tax revenues to help pay for the $250 million Las Colinas Entertainment Center.

What will that mean for the already troubled project? According to one Irving city council member, it means a huge loss of anticipated revenues and probably the end of the Las Colinas Entertainment Center as it is currently proposed.

The complex planned has been the subject of an ongoing News 8 Investigation. Millions of city tax dollars for questionable expenses have been incurred by private investors hoping to build a concert arena, bars and restaurants. It's a project that depends heavily on revenues that may now not be available to the city.

In recently filed court papers, the Texas Attorney General takes the position that "the mixed beverage tax," which the city was counting on to help pay off construction bonds, "cannot be paid to Irving".

According to the city's own estimate, that amounts to about $7-million-a-year in lost revenues.

Dallas attorney Jim Harris, retained by competitors to help block the project, said it's time Irving residents wake up to the facts.

"If those monies are not available, I think it would call into question the ability of the city to repay the $200 to $270 million in bonds they are proposing to float in order to construct this facility," he said.

Now, for the first time, one Irving city council member is ready to agree.

Rose Cannaday, the only member of the council willing to voice concerns currently about the complex, now believes the project, as proposed, cannot go forward.

"With the liquor tax gone, I don't see the money to do this being there now," she said. "I don't see this particular project going forward."

Mayor Herb Gears, who continues to be the biggest supporter of the project, disagrees.

"That's certainly not my opinion," he said. "We have 18 other ways we can make up for those revenues. This does not kill the project."

Cannaday said she's not giving up on the project and still believes it can go forward, but just not at this time.

Meanwhile, project costs called into question by WFAA's investigation are the subject of an ongoing city audit.

The results of the audit should be made public mid-January.

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