From the Fort Worth Star
Dallas entertainment complex plans detailed
By MELISSA SÁNCHEZSTAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITERDALLAS —
City officials and a Dallas developer announced specific plans at a City Hall news conference Tuesday for Dallas City Limits, a $250 million themed entertainment complex near the downtown Dallas Convention Center.
“We are very excited to link the central business district to the Trinity River Program,” said Bill Beuck, who helped develop the 900-acre Pinnacle Park, near Interstate 30 and Loop 12. “We believe it can elevate Dallas to a new juncture.”
A 10-minute video laid out specifics of the 400,000-square-foot center, including luxury suites, a health spa, outdoor entertainment areas and retail shops. Construction will start this spring, and the complex’s first phase will open 18 months later. It will be the only one of its kind in the United States, Beuck said.
The venture was announced in October by old friends and business partners Beuck, Billy Bob Barnett — the namesake for Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth — and Spencer Taylor, another successful honky-tonk entrepreneur, who helped bring Gilley’s to Dallas.
The first phase of the complex will have two outdoor venues. Festival Plaza, on an 8-acre grassy field, is designed as a venue for 12 major events and six multiday festivals a year. Trinity will seat 1,500 in its outdoor arena for bull riding, rodeos, boxing, beach volleyball and extreme sports.
Beuck said specifics on financing haven’t been ironed out yet because the location is not definite. But he said a proposed deal is for City Limits to acquire the land at fair-market value and the city to invest in public improvements. In November, Allyn and Company, which represents Barnett, said the project could be funded by a Texas entertainment-investment firm headed by an area dentist.
One remaining hurdle is a proposed land swap in which Woodbine Development, a real-estate interest of Dallas oilman Ray Hunt, would trade part of a parking lot near the project site for Reunion Arena, which became largely obsolete with the opening of the American Airlines Center.
The City Council is expected to support the effort, Beuck said. The council will probably discuss the City Limits proposal at today’s council meeting.
Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said in a news release Tuesday that the developer is asking for $20 million in tax money, “but he has no money of his own and no track record on a project this size.”
“That’s pretty much a nonstarter for me,” she said in the news release.
Mayor Pro Tem Donald Hill said the market will respond to the project.
“Dallas is on its way to the vision our founders had 150 years ago,” Hill said.
Dallas City Limits' fiscal data sought
Council split on viability of entertainment project, focuses on 'legal issues'
07:11 AM CST on Thursday, February 2, 2006
By DAVE LEVINTHAL / The Dallas Morning News
The backers of an expansive downtown entertainment complex proposal have two weeks to produce financial records and address unspecified "legal issues" before the Dallas City Council continues negotiations.
The decision by the council to wait for financial information came Wednesday after one of its longest closed-door meetings in years -- almost four hours. Council members, however, differed on whether the proposed $250 million concept is unraveling or remains on line for council approval in some fashion. And they differed on what tax incentives, if any, the city should offer development company Dallas City Limits, which is seeking public aid.
Had the council voted on the proposal Wednesday, it would not have passed, several members agreed. "They still haven't shown us that they have money. We've never seen that they have the wherewithal to build it," Mayor Laura Miller said of Dallas City Limits, repeating her longtime criticism of the proposal. "For me, that's insurmountable."
Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, listening nearby, interjected: "That is so inappropriate. They've invested -- according to our staff -- they've invested $10 million into this project already. That's ludicrous." Dallas City Limits' financing "will be there," Mr. Hill said. Ms. Miller fired back. "I will always be against putting taxpayer money in projects where the person asking for the money has no money of their own," she said. City Attorney Tom Perkins asked that council members not publicly discuss the "legal issues" that some council members say remain obstacles to the project's success.
The complicated project involves a three-way land swap that, if executed, ultimately would give the city control of a tract of nearly vacant land next to the Dallas Convention Center -- land it hopes to sell to Dallas City Limits to develop into the entertainment complex. Council member Mitchell Rasansky said one legal issue involves "covenants that are attached to Reunion" Arena, one of the pieces of the proposed land swap, but he would not discuss specifics. The city has previously entered into agreements governing the use of Reunion Arena, which is slated for demolition as part of the land swap.
Dallas City Limits executive Bill Beuck said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn't spoken with city officials, and as a result, did not want to comment on the council meeting. "We clearly understand that transactions have to be good for all parties involved," Mr. Beuck said. "The city is working in good faith, as are we. We realize it's a complicated situation."
Mr. Beuck declined to discuss details of Dallas City Limits' financial situation, or why the group hasn't presented the city with the financial material it wants. The city has not, however, presented Dallas City Limits with its terms for the project, which would presumably reveal any tax incentives Dallas plans to offer. A preliminary term sheet valued Dallas' tax incentive offering at $20 million.
Mr. Beuck said the city should invest in infrastructure in and around the proposed development site, including money to improve a parking garage, fix streets and build a connection system from the Dallas Convention Center to Dallas City Limits. Mr. Rasansky said after the closed-door meeting that the city shouldn't swap land at all.
Officials closed the executive session to the public because they said they'd be discussing legal issues, a permissible reason under state open meeting laws. "If they have the financial capability to do this, let them show us," Mr. Rasansky said. "Without it, as far as I'm concerned, the property will only increase in value, and this is not the time to sell."
Where to now? "The general consensus is that we're going to keep working things through the economic development committee until it makes it, or it's dead," said council member Bill Blaydes, the committee's chairman. "It's still up in the air."
The proposed land swap works like this: Dallas would transfer its ownership of Reunion Arena to billionaire oilman Ray Hunt's Woodbine Development Corp., which has said it plans to demolish the facility to make way for an unspecified project. Woodbine would give Dallas part of a little-used parking lot -- known as Lot E -- that the company owns near the struggling Dallas Convention Center, which the city also owns. After coupling Lot E with land the city already owns, government officials would sell the property to Dallas City Limits for $30 million, according to preliminary terms.
As presented by its backers, Dallas City Limits would be a $250 million project, the centerpiece of which would be a 400,000-square-foot entertainment complex featuring shops, restaurants, nightclubs, a health club, a concert hall and an outdoor arena. Mr. Beuck said construction could begin as soon as spring, pending council approval.
A later project phase calls for an expansion south of Interstate 30 into the Cedars neighborhood along the Trinity River, which would feature an equestrian center, a horse-racing track with pari-mutuel wagering, a polo field, residential apartments and condominiums, and a 4,000-seat indoor arena, according to project plans.