Open Standard Media Player version 1.3
DULUTH - Duluth city councilors are speaking out, claiming Mayor Don Ness is playing politics to get funding for a project that caters to the arts over Wade Stadium.
The crumbling of Wade Stadium's right field wall has amped up efforts to renovate the 72-year-old historic landmark.
"It's a wonderful, there's a lot of tremendous history in Wade Stadium," Duluth Mayor Don Ness said. "If we don't make the investment in saving that stadium it will continue to deteriorate."
Ness estimates a full renovation of the stadium would cost $8–12 million.
To receive state bonding the city would have to come up with half of that amount.
"We don't have $4 million laying around that we can take and dedicate to this project," said Ness.
The mayor believes the best opportunity to raise the $4 million match would be to look into getting a referendum passed to implement a half percent food and beverage tax.
"It can be done without affecting property taxes," said Ness. "So we feel like that's the most appropriate way for us to generate the local match."
But not all city officials are sold on that idea.
"It's a delay tactic because the referendum wouldn't take place until November," Duluth city councilor Jim Stauber said.
Stauber thinks Ness is putting Wade Stadium on the back burner so funding for the NorShor Theatre is the priority this legislative session.
"The mayor, I do believe he wants part of his legacy to be part of that NorShor Theatre," said Stauber.
Stauber says last year city councilors were convinced by Ness there would be a $4 million match to fix up Wade Stadium, the project was shovel ready and plans would be brought before state lawmakers for funding.
"I don't understand how a total of 14 months later he's coming back and saying 'Oh we're not ready, we don't know what we will do here, we don't know what it costs,'" said Stauber.
Stauber says the state legislature has not addressed bonding yet, so there is still time to get money for the stadium.
"In speaking with Senator Reinert, he seems to think that if we make this a top priority and that there is bonding, that there's a good chance that this will get funded," said Stauber.
At the agenda session Thursday night, a brand new resolution was introduced to get funding for Wade Stadium this legislative session .
City councilors will vote on that resolution April 1.
If Ness's proposed sales tax is approved, construction for Wade Stadium will start August 2014.