Irving again discusses entertainment complex next to convention center

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by By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 1:18 PM

Irving is ready to make another run at creating a massive entertainment complex adjacent to its planned Las Colinas convention center. And famed developer Billy Bob Barnett is set to reprise his role as entertainment expert this second time around.

Plans for the center unveiled Wednesday emphasize live musical performances big and small. Developers envision a 600,000-square-foot, pedestrian-friendly complex centered on a five-level concert hall with a maximum capacity for 6,000 people.

A bevy of restaurants, smaller live music venues, bars, high-end retail shops, a polo club and a recording studio are also planned for the project. The complex is scheduled to open in early 2011 and is expected to cost more than $200 million.

"What we're trying to do is be the next level where music is going," project manager Bill Beuck told a standing-room-only crowd at the Irving City Council's work session Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, city officials and residents got their first glimpse of a model for the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, which will anchor the convention and entertainment center site. That 275,000-square-foot building is set to open in November 2010.

The projects will be built on land surrounded by Northwest Highway, State Highway 114 and West Las Colinas Boulevard.

The council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to allow city staffers to begin working out details with developers of construction and operation agreements on the entertainment side of the complex. The council resolution would also enter the city into exclusive negotiations with Watermark Hotel Co. for the complex's planned convention center and boutique hotels.

"It will live on its merits and it will provide benefits to the city," council member Joe Philipp said of the combined convention center and entertainment complex.

Site work on the convention center is expected to begin this fall. Costs for the convention center will come from more than $135 million in hotel tax revenues the city has been setting aside since 2003. Funds for the entertainment center's infrastructure will come from additional hotel room taxes and parking and ticket taxes levied at the complex, all of which were approved by voters last year.

The council last year terminated a memorandum of understanding for the entertainment center with developer Texas Spirit! LLC. Mr. Barnett, of Billy Bob's Texas honky-tonk fame, was part of that group. City officials said they pulled out of their agreement because a legal dispute over Texas Spirit's leadership was hindering plans for the site.

Under the new plans for the entertainment center, Las Colinas Group LP will serve as the developer. Venue operator Live Nation will manage the concert hall. A concessionaire company of Mr. Barnett's will operate the music, retail and restaurant venues.

Mr. Barnett and his sister Wynona Winters were major contributors to Mayor Herbert Gears' successful re-election campaign this year. Ms. Winters also contributed $5,000 each to the re-election campaigns of council members Rose Cannaday and Allan Meagher.

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