Las Colinas Entertainment Center project dealt serious blow

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on January 7, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 7 at 10:10 PM

LAS COLINAS - The controversial Las Colinas Entertainment Center project was dealt a potentially devastating blow Friday.

The Texas Attorney General's office has filed notice of an appeal seeking to block Irving's sale of $200 million in bonds to help build the center.

It will take $50 million in private funds and $200 million in tax revenues for Irving to build the proposed Las Colinas Entertainment Center, complete with a 5,000-seat concert hall and an adjoining cluster of restaurants and night clubs.

But, private investors have already missed last week's deadline of coming up with the $50 million.

Now, the Texas Attorney General is blocking the City of Irving's attempt to sell the $200 million in construction bonds, appealing a lower court ruling allowing the city to rely on mixed beverage taxes to raise an estimated $7 million a year.

"We are particularly concerned with the novel proposal to allocate the state's portion of the mixed beverage tax," said Assistant Attorney General David Mattax. "Never before has the state's portion of the mixed beverage tax been allocated to fund this type of ... project."

Dallas attorney Jim Harris, who represents both critics and prospective competitors to the project, agreed with the attorney general. He said he's been trying to warn Irving residents for some time that the numbers supporting the project don't add up.

"I think this is just another example of a situation where perhaps all the details of this program and the problems with it have not been brought fully to their attention," Harris said. "The takeaway here is what else is wrong with this bond program."

Irving Mayor Herb Gears, on the other hand, said the entertainment center project is very close to breaking ground. He said the city will withstand the attorney general's appeal.

"We anticipated this action, although we're quite happy they agreed not to challenge any other item, including some items that they were mentioning," he said. "Obviously, the attorney general agrees with ourselves and our attorneys and our judge."

The mayor said the appeal may only take about 60 days. Opponents, however, said the appeal may take up to a year, putting the project on ice for that period of time.

Added to that, next week there will be the release of an external audit into alleged spending irregularities brought to light by a News 8 investigation.

Yet, the mayor insists the project will pull through just fine.

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