The downtown Tax Increment Financing board Wednesday will consider giving $35 million in public funds toward Baylor University’s proposed football stadium on the Brazos River.
If approved by the TIF board and Waco City Council, it will be the biggest economic development incentive in Waco-area history, City Manager Larry Groth said.
The incentives would pay for public infrastructure at and around the stadium, covering about 14 percent of the project’s estimated $250 million cost.
City council could approve the TIF board recommendation July 17, three days before Baylor regents are set to give their final go-ahead for the stadium.
Construction would begin in August and is scheduled to wrap up by the Bears’ first home game in fall 2014.
Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. said city council members have been kept informed about the negotiations for the incentives.
“I’m excited about it,” he said of the proposed deal. “I think there’s significant community support for the project.”
The TIF Zone receives a portion of city, school, community college and county taxes collected on property in downtown and the river corridor and reinvests the monies to encourage development in the zone.
The TIF fund would give Baylor the $35 million during 10 years, starting with $8 million this year and $3 million a year until 2022.
The money would help cover infrastructure costs such as relocating sewer and electric transmission lines, dredging the new marina, building a pedestrian bridge across the Brazos River and landscaping the site. The money also could fund a section of concrete trail along the east bank of the Brazos River.
Public funding is critical to the project, said Reagan Ramsower, Baylor vice president for finance and administration.
“It’s an important piece of the puzzle,” he said. “The stadium couldn’t happen without it.”
Baylor officials have not revealed how much they have raised for the stadium, but they have received large donations from alumni such as Drayton McLane, John Eddie Williams and Walter Umphrey.
The $35 million contribution eclipses anything the TIF fund has given since it was created in 1982. Its biggest contribution to date has been $2 million to the Waco Hilton renovation and expansion.
The TIF fund receives the tax revenue from all property value added to the zone since 1982. The fund took in $5.2 million last year. Its reserves are expected to grow to $14 million by the end of this fiscal year, before the $8 million stadium contribution.
City Manager Larry Groth, who negotiated the contribution with Baylor, said he thinks the TIF can afford to support the stadium and still have $2 million to $3 million a year for major projects elsewhere in the zone.
Like the rest of Baylor, the stadium itself is expected to be mostly exempt from property taxes. But Groth said the stadium will give the TIF coffers a significant if indirect boost as private businesses develop around it.
Duncan agreed that the stadium will have a ripple effect through downtown and the river corridor.
“I think we’ll see more residential, restaurants and retail development,” he said.
“It’s hard to decide whether it’s more important as economic development on the river, or as a community event center,” Duncan said. “I think Baylor is very keen on making this much more than a football stadium. That helps me get over the hurdle of resistance.”
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