AUBURN — The DeKalb County Economic Development Commission on Thursday gave Auburn Sports Group a final chance to provide verified proof of funding before it will consider the group’s application for an economic development bond.
The commission met for more than 90 minutes on Thursday to discuss approving the bond after filing the matter in September over a lack of proper paperwork. At that meeting, the commission was dissatisfied with Auburn Sports Group’s funding. It gave Auburn Sports Group 60 days to provide a complete traffic study of the area, verified proof of funding and an updated business plan.
As of Thursday, the Commission-approved funding documents provided by Auburn Sports Group did not meet the Commission’s standards for verified proof of funding.
The economic development agreement with the county requires Auburn Sports Group personal financing bonds to be routed through the county as $18 million in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars will be returned to the group to redeem a portion of the bonds repay. The creation of the Auburn Sports Park TIF district was approved by the DeKalb County Economic Development Commission earlier this year.
According to a handout provided Thursday by FCI’s Tim Ehlerding, Auburn Sports Group is calling for the use of 74% of new property tax revenue generated solely by investing in the Auburn Sports Park property on CR 11A and limiting that use to 18 Years Construction, who spoke on behalf of the developers.
“The remaining 26% of new property taxes, which will grow to 100% of property tax revenue after 18 years, will be directed to the county to improve the lives of DeKalb County citizens,” the Auburn Sports Group handout reads.
The funds requested by the group will be used to fund infrastructure needed by Auburn Sports Park. The infrastructure totals $18 million, or 28% of the $64 million total investment, according to Auburn Sports Group.
“The ASP team will invest the entire $64 million, including these infrastructure costs. In no way is the ASP team asking current DeKalb County taxpayers to undertake or fund any part of this project,” Auburn Sports Group said in its handout.
Auburn Sports Group is demanding that proceeds from the $18 million economic development bond be limited to infrastructure improvements, including roads, utilities, lighting, stormwater, grading, parking and traffic control.
Auburn Sports Group said there is no risk to DeKalb County taxpayers and no existing property or income proceeds will be requested from DeKalb County to support the development.
“We are simply charging a portion of the new taxes generated by the new taxpayers at Auburn Sports Park to help provide the necessary infrastructure for Auburn Sports Park,” the group explained.
On Thursday, the commission agreed that a letter of commitment provided by Auburn Sports Group did not constitute a commitment to credit approval or proof of funding.
Commissioner Shelley Smaltz said Auburn Sports Group said at the September meeting it expects to close a loan on October 28.
“What happened to it?” She asked.
“What happened to the money that was in the bank in 45 days?” Commission President Mike Watson added.
Ehlerding said there was “some delay” in getting the final loan approvals. He said Auburn Sports Group told the commission in September it expected the funding would come in 45 days, but it wasn’t a promise.
He said he expects to close the loan in January.
He said Auburn Sports Group had terms, the duration and amount of the loan but had not finalized it.
“We feel that we have consistently addressed the issues you raised,” Ehlerding added.
He said he was willing to set up a phone call or Zoom meeting with broker First International Financial to confirm the loan details.
Watson reiterated that a pledge is not a solid commitment to funding.
“I just can’t say I would support it the way you have it,” Commissioner Ron Walter said.
“I agree, Ron,” Watson said.
“There’s nothing in there that says there’s an obligation to make the loan. Proof of financing is no longer required.”
Ehlerding claimed the document provided described what had been promised for the project.
“You just can’t go out in the middle of the street and find $65 million,” he said of the delay.
“There’s a process you have to go through.”
He acknowledged the group didn’t have the money in the bank yet, but said it wasn’t the group’s understanding that the commission was asking for.
“I’m trying my best to support this whole cause, but I can’t do it with this. I need to see a face, hear a voice or something. That’s me,” Walter said.
Watson said he would need a signed loan document or an irrevocable letter of credit to prove funding.
Ehlerding asked the Commission to submit the matter until the group provided proof of funding.
Watson said he was not inclined to bring the matter up until “a vague deadline”.
Walter suggested filing the matter by a specific date, and if the group doesn’t have the required paperwork, “it’s done.”
Watson suggested December 1 as the date when the matter could be filed.
Ehlerding said December 1 is not realistic, adding that mid-January is a realistic timeframe.
Walter submitted a request to file the matter by January 12, but his request died in want of a second.
Smaltz said a few more weeks would be appropriate, but not a few months.
Ehlerding asked why two weeks was fine but not two months.
Smaltz said things dragged on for too long.
Ultimately, the commission agreed to bring the matter up by December 29. At this point, Auburn Sports Group would need to provide proof of funding in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit or a signed loan document. Watson said if matters were in the same place at this point he would be “under heavy pressure to move something forward”.
Auburn Sports Park would transform the property on the north side of CR 11A into a state-of-the-art sports park with 10 indoor basketball/volleyball courts in the “L-shaped” auction building on site. The building will also include a concession stand and restrooms. To the north of the indoor facility will be a dome structure that will house an additional six basketball/volleyball courts and a 7-on-7 soccer field.
The outfields include eight baseball/softball fields, four soccer/lacrosse fields, and an additional 7-on-7 soccer field. The complex will also include an outdoor concession stand and other amenities – a walkway, a splash guard and a parking lot for 2,000 cars.
The south side of CR 11A will feature a variety of developments including four hotels, restaurants and a variety of businesses.