Mayor Staci Mitchell.JPG

The Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau recently committed up to $6 million to West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell’s project to build a $19-million indoor sports complex as a tourism attraction.

In early 2020, Mitchell floated the idea of an indoor sports arena or indoor track to host sporting events such as basketball and volleyball. Since then, the city conducted a feasibility study, hired a local architect and approved a plan to borrow up to $17 million.

With the CVB’s pledge, the city could have up to $23 million to spend, though Mitchell said this week the project was estimated to cost $18.8 million.

Jordan Guillot, who serves as vice chairman of the CVB’s board of directors, told The Ouachita Citizen the board believed the project held value for the community.

“We’ve done the research needed, and we believe it will bring in that tourism and put people in hotels and bulk up our economy,” Guillot said.

According to Alana Cooper, president of the CVB, visitors bureau officials hope construction costs drop, for the sake of saving taxpayer dollars.

“We’re hopeful maybe it would not cost that much,” Cooper said.

According to Cooper, the indoor sports complex would be a multi-use facility that would accommodate a variety of sporting events and provide year-round usage. The only similar projects were in Alabama and Texas, Cooper said.

“Our research shows there’s demand,” Cooper said.

The city estimates needing only $13 million at this time, according to Mitchell. That figure is less than the $17 million in bonded indebtedness which the West Monroe Board of Aldermen agreed to last month. Some of that $17 million could pay for renovations at the Ike Hamilton Expo Center. The city’s application to incur the debt was expected to be on the state Bond Commission’s meeting in September.

At this time, Mitchell says the site for the proposed indoor sports complex would be on property near the Ike, between Interstate 20 and the Home2 Suites and Hampton Inn.

“The architect is working on that now,” Mitchell told The Ouachita Citizen on Tuesday.

Instead of designing the project and advertising it for bids, the city will bypass the public bids process, taking advantage of a recent state law that allows the selection of a “construction management at risk,” or CMAR delivery method.

The CMAR public works process entails the review of applications by qualified CMAR contractors. A CMAR contractor is expected to provide a guaranteed maximum price before the final design plans are completed.

“We’re in the process of selecting a CMAR contractor,” Mitchell said. “Anyone who is interested in being a CMAR contractor will be reviewed and a recommendation will be done. The CMAR contractor will work with the architect through the project, and the project can then go through the construction process without going through the bid process.”

Mitchell says the project is estimated to have a $22.5-million indirect impact on the area’s economy. The facility could cost some $1 million a year to operate, she has said.

“It was a project identified by the CVB as the next big thing our parish needs to bring outside money into our parish, to continue the growth of sports tourism in our area,” Mitchell told The Ouachita Citizen on Tuesday.

“It’s adding a whole other variety of sports tourism options with the indoor sports complex. It will affect the entire region.”

Mitchell said the indoor sports complex could be 80,000 to 100,000 square feet with the capacity to hold eight basketball courts. The structure will be designed to have a clear span roof, meaning no columns supporting it within.

“We won’t sell the bonds until we have the designs locked in and the estimates, and that means we probably won’t sell bonds until close to the end of the year,” Mitchell said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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