The Hoover City Council tonight voted 3-2 to approve borrowing up to $80 million, primarily to pay for construction of a 124-acre sports complex and indoor event center next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Councilmen Jack Wright, Jack Natter and Joe Rives voted in favor of borrowing the money, while councilmen John Lyda and John Greene voted against. Councilmen Brian Skelton and Gene Smith were absent.
Greene has voted against most council actions related to the sports complex, saying he has a problem with spending that much money on this project when the school system needs additional funding.
Lyda tonight said he would have voted in favor of borrowing money if the amount had been the original $70 million estimated by city administrative staff when the council first approved the project in December.
Lyda said he understands that most construction projects have cost overruns, but tacking on an extra $10 million seems excessive.
“Government at all levels is notorious for overspending,” Lyda said.
Natter said he was OK with increasing the debt another $10 million as long as the city can use any excess funds not needed for the sports complex on other capital projects and shift money that had been allocated for those capital projects to other needs in the city.
Construction of the sports complex will be a watershed event for the "over-the-mountain" area, bringing in people from out-of-state for athletic tournaments and non-athletic events alike, Natter said. Once it is complete, people will be wondering why the city never did it before, he said.
The actual cost for the sports complex now is about $76 million, Hoover Executive Director Allen Pate said.
Pate early this month noted numerous reasons for the cost increase, including increasing the square footage of the indoor event center from about 141,000 to about 155,000 square feet. This will allow more room for circulation, bigger restrooms and more room outside the boundary lines of indoor fields or courts, he said.
Revised plans also include a tennis pro shop and shade structures over the seating area at the tennis courts, Pate said.
Additionally, the cost of relocating a gas pipeline came in higher than anticipated, and the previous $20.8 million budgeted for the indoor event center did not include furniture, fixtures and equipment, Pate said.
Both the previous $70 million estimate and current $76 million estimate include $3.3 million for unexpected contingency expenses, Pate said.
Pate early this month said the city wanted to use the extra $4 million it would borrow to cover other “miscellaneous improvements” in the city. Tonight, Hoover Finance Director Robert Yeager said city officials want to leave themselves some cushion in the budget since bids have not yet been received for various parts of the sports complex construction package.
Just in case bids come in much higher than anticipated, it’s better to have more money in hand than to have to go back to the financial markets and try to borrow more a few months later, Yeager said.
With interest rates as low as they are now, it’s as good a time as ever to borrow money, Yeager said. And any money not used on the sports complex can be spent either on other capital projects that already are in the budget or new capital projects identified by city officials, he said.
Yeager said there about $38 million worth of existing capital projects on the city books, including $6 million to $7 million for the widening of Valleydale Road, a project to reconfigure an intersection near the Russet Woods subdivision and renovation work at the Hoover Municipal Center. The newly borrowed money could be used to help pay for any of those projects, and the money already set aside for those projects could be used elsewhere, Yeager said.
The outdoor sports complex is slated to include five NCAA regulation-size soccer/football/lacrosse fields, five NCAA regulation-size baseball (or softball) fields, 16 tennis courts with a pro shop, a 2-mile walking track, playground, splash pad and large event lawn, Mayor Gary Ivey said.
The 155,000-square-foot indoor event center will be built to accommodate 11 regulation-size basketball courts or 17 regulation-size volleyball courts, trade shows with 300 booths, 2,400-seat banquets and theater-style seating for 5,000 people, Ivey said. The facility also will include a walking track, performance center, food court, convenience store, locker rooms, meeting space and a climbing attraction.
The Hoover RV Park will be expanded from 149 to 172 spaces, and on-site parking at the Met and adjacent sports complex will be expanded from 3,200 to 5,000 parking spaces, he said.
In other business tonight, the City Council voted to:
- Approve a budget amendment to allocate $126,000 for two new X-ray machines, $75,000 for a new speed radar trailer, an additional $55,000 for heating and air conditioning work, $30,000 to equip new vehicles, $15,000 for office furniture at the Hoover Public Safety Center, $15,000 to replace a drain pipe on South Sanders Road, an additional $13,000 for the radio system in the city’s new explosive ordnance disposal truck, $9,000 for three drone kits and $7,000 for bleed control kits and cabinets for Hoover schools.
- Reject a $100,000 bid from Municipal and Commercial Uniforms and Equipment for new Fire Department uniforms and accessories and to authorize the mayor to negotiate a better price with the company since it was the only bidder.
- Cut the weeds and/or grass at 1858 Burning Tree Circle, 6174 Valley Station Circle and 3256 Mockingbird Lane and bill the property owners for the work.
- Declare properties at 635 Trace Crossings Trail and 1729 Valpar Drive as public nuisances due to high weeds and/or grass.
- Set public hearings for July 18 to consider whether to approve a new event center at 2505 International Park Lane and to rezone newly annexed property at 1833 Burning Tree Circle from Jefferson County single-family residential zoning to Hoover single-family residential zoning.
This story was updated at 8:46 p.m. to include an additional quote from Hoover Finance Director Robert Yeager concerning additional projects that could be paid for with the newly borrowed money.