A tax break for a proposed ice-rink complex in Freedom Park is no longer being considered, as Greenwood officials are instead looking into other financial incentives that could be offered to the developer.
Concerns about a requirement for stricter and more expensive construction standards for the project and the legality of providing a tax break to an ice-skating complex caused officials to withdraw the request for a tax break, which the Greenwood City Council was set to vote on for a second time this evening, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said in a written statement.
Instead, Myers is expected to ask that the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission provide the developer with an equivalent financial incentive in lieu of a the previously proposed 5-year, $450,000 tax break.
“We are looking at different financial incentive that could be offered to the iceplex because the area is in an economic development area,” Myers said in an interview Wednesday.
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Whether that proposed incentive will receive approval from the redevelopment commission is not yet known. Two of the five members of the commission have said they will not vote to give a financial incentive to the project if it is to be located in Freedom Park. Of the remaining three members, two have said they are undecided and a third has said he will support it under certain conditions.
Minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel owners Jim and Sean Hallett have proposed the Greenwood Iceplex with up to four ice rinks to be built on 6 acres at Freedom Park. They offered to invest $20 million in developing the property. In return, they had requested a 5-year, $450,000 tax break. The city has also offered to lease the land to them for $1 a month for 60 years, a decision that will need to be approved by the Greenwood Park and Recreation Board.
“I have offered to make an investment, and the mayor’s office is working to make it happen,” Sean Hallett said. “I’m leaving it up to his office to do what is in the best interest of the residents of Greenwood.”
Freedom Park remains the preferred location for the iceplex, but other alternatives were considered before it was chosen, he said.
“There is more than way to get this thing built, and we are leaving to the city to take the direction,” Sean Hallett said.
During its first of three required votes for the tax break early this month, the Greenwood City Council narrowly approved it 5-4 amid concerns about the location of the ice-rink complex in a city park and the legality of the tax break. Per state law, the council would have needed to vote twice more in favor of the tax break for it to have been approved.
The council also made changes to the tax break, adding the condition that the Halletts follow stricter construction standards similar to those required for properties near Interstate 65.
The extra expenses the Halletts would have accrued by following those standards would have been more costly than the $450,000 they would have saved through the tax break, Myers said.
In addition, further information was provided after the April 3 city council vote by an attorney for the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance that suggested the city couldn’t legally provide a tax break for this type of project.
“The city is currently determining the best path forward, and we remain fully committed to the Greenwood Iceplex,” Myers said in the statement. “This project will transform the youth sports landscape in our area, addressing a substantial need for organized recreational opportunities.”
The incentives would be a similar amount to the $450,000 tax break, but what mechanism the redevelopment commission would use to provide the incentive is still be discussed, Myers said.
The redevelopment commission’s next scheduled meeting is May 8. The five-member board is comprised of three members appointed by the mayor — Brent Tilson, Mike Tapp and Bryan Harris — and two members selected by the city council — Chuck Landon and Mike Campbell, who are also city council members.
The primary responsibility of the redevelopment commission is to determine how to spend property taxes collected in the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, districts. The redevelopment commission also must sign off on any tax breaks given to properties inside TIF districts.
Tilson, the president of the redevelopment commission, said the mayor has not presented any specific funding request yet. He expects to get more information about the proposed incentive in the coming weeks, and said it will likely be structured similarly to the tax break, with the exception that cash would be provided to the Halletts.
Seth Garrett, one of the residents who has been speaking out against the iceplex, said he hopes the redevelopment commission will take into consideration the information he and other residents have gathered in support of another iceplex location.
“We all have the same goal,” he said. “We definitely want this facility in Greenwood. We have different opinions of where it should go.”
Property taxes collected in TIF districts are intended to be used for infrastructure and economic development projects. Projects the redevelopment commission has funded range from the expansion of Worthsville Road to the Freedom Springs Aquatic Center in Freedom Park.
Landon and Campbell, who both serve on the council and the redevelopment commission, have already weighed in on the issue during a city council meeting two weeks ago.
Campbell voted for the tax break. Landon voted against it. Both indicated that their position on a financial incentive would be the same.
The debate over the iceplex has been the most controversial issue the city has dealt with recently, Landon said. Freedom Park isn’t an appropriate location for the iceplex, and the city needs to consider other options, he said.
“I represent these people,” Landon said. “I have an obligation to listen to the people. They are my boss.”
Campbell reiterated his support for the Freedom Park location but said he would still like to have some constructions standards placed on the iceplex to ensure it would look good in that setting.
Tapp said he will vote against any incentive for the iceplex if it is to be built in Freedom Park.
“It is a hot potato,” he said. “I’d hate to see us lose the project, but I don’t think there is a lot of common sense being used at this point.”
The purpose of providing incentives through the redevelopment commission is to spark further economic development in the area being invested in. If the iceplex is in Freedom Park, that won’t happen, Tapp said.
While he is not in favor of a Freedom Park location, he does believe the project could be successful elsewhere in the city.
“I think this is such an awesome project and will be a lucrative facility and business to have in our city limits,” Tapp said.
Both Tilson and Harris said they have not made a decision on whether they would support an incentive of the iceplex in Freedom Park.
“I’m not sure,” Harris said. “I haven’t heard all the arguments. I need to hear more arguments both for and against.”
Moving the iceplex to another location is also a possibility, he said.
“Where the ice rink ends up is another question to decide,” Harris said. “We kind of count on the city in a large amount to provide some guidance, if we see this is not necessarily the greatest placement for this ice rink we will weigh in with the city as well.”
Tilson also said he is undecided, and that he is waiting to get more information from residents, the developer and the city before making a decision.
The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission expects to be asked to approve a financial incentive of about $450,000 for a proposed ice-rink complex planned for Freedom Park. We asked each member where they stand on voting for that financial incentive.
Mike Campbell: Yes, but developer needs to follow stricter construction standards
Bryan Harris: Undecided
Chuck Landon: No, because Freedom Park isn’t the right location
Mike Tapp: No, because Freedom Park isn’t the right location
Brent Tilson: Undecided
What: The Greenwood Iceplex, a four ice-rink complex that would be the largest in the state and one of the biggest in the Midwest, will cover 115,000 square feet and cost $20 million.
Details: Two ice rinks, two turf fields which are planned to be later converted into ice rinks, a 4,000-square-foot fitness and training facility open to the public, retail space, locker rooms and food service. The ice rinks will be used for hockey, skating, figure skating, speed skating, curling, broomball and other ice sports.
Owned by: Jim and Sean Hallett, owners of minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel