Arena games

City Hall finds $35 million--and toys with turning Reunion into a reflecting pool

Which would leave no money--and no possibility of borrowing any--for the convention center.

This approach is foolhardy. When the convention center bookings begin to drop--and the only reason we have bookings today is because they were made four and five years ago--so will revenues. And when convention center revenues drop, hotel and drink taxes will have to cover the center's annual debt payments. But if we have fewer conventioneers in town, those taxes will fall off too. And when those taxes decline, it will mean not only debt-payment problems for the center--but for the new arena as well.

Frank Poe, a good company man who nonetheless sees where this arena obsession is going, wrote Suhm in another March 22 memo: "I realize discussions are ongoing regarding the 'new arena' project. However, we need some direction regarding movement on the projects noted with the material attached."

Direction? I think it's called down the tubes.
Former councilman Glenn Box, a big arena proponent, has always been wonderful about returning Observer phone calls and being open and polite to us on the telephone--even though he makes it clear that he disagrees vehemently with the Observer's criticism of plans for a new arena.

Well, now we know how he really feels.
Box sometimes gets letters from people who read this column, which--as you may know--has focused on the arena in some detail over the past year. In fact, Box has gotten so many of these letters, he's developed a standard reply. We found several copies of it in his files.

"Dear So and So: Thank you so very much for your recent letter concerning the proposed new arena. I am afraid that you have your facts completely backwards...

"Unfortunately, you have chosen to believe the distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies of an ultra-liberal Laura Miller regarding this arena..."

John Ware and his deputies have dedicated the resources of their office for 18 months toward getting arena shovels into the dirt--and neither persistence, nor stealth, nor blatant skullduggery has made much headway.

And so they dream.
They lie upon their office couches--or so we imagine--loafers off, eyeglasses pulled down on the bulbs of their noses, and they try to think up ways to make the whole deal work.

Like what to do with the old arena if we build a new one next door.
Consider what they've come up with on that one. On January 11, public works architect Louise Elam sent Mike Marcotte, the arena-project director, a memo. It was soberly written, but for the life of me I don't see how.

"Per your request, I studied the possibility of demolishing Reunion Arena to grade level and the footprint that would be left if the remaining hole was filled with water to make a water element," Elam wrote. "The footprint would be 224 feet by 338 feet at grade level that slopes down 30 feet to a footprint of 124 feet by 238 feet."

An arena-sized reflecting pool. Ray Hunt likes reflecting pools. He's got a little one in front of his hotel right now--on city-owned land that he's leasing from the city for $100 a year for 100 years. Maybe--and this is what the city manager's office must be thinking--he'd be willing to give us $150 a year for a really big pool.

Elam, in diplomatic fashion, did her best to discourage the idea in her memo. "The safety issues of having a thirty-foot deep water element need to be addressed," she said with a straight pen. "...The structural capacity of the retaining walls to withstand the pressure of the water would need to be studied...There is no drain incorporated in case the water would need to be drained... The area under the risers would need to be backfilled, so the the floor does not cave in under the weight of the water."

Details, details.
But perhaps she got her point across. Because two weeks later, the giant minds that are laboring over this deal had a new brainstorm for Elam to go investigate.

We learn this from a copy of some notes taken by Elam at a January 26 meeting. "CVK" is First Assistant City Manager Clifford V. Keheley, who resigned two months later.

"CVK wants to bring Reunion down to grade and do an open air amphitheater. If you have any thoughts--sketch out."

And so she did.
Elam works fast--we assume in direct proportion to the idiocy of the idea. A few days later, she submitted a sketch of the Reunion Arena Amphitheatre.

Luckily for the taxpayers, lopping the top off Reunion Arena and turning the lower seating bowl into an amphitheatre (with soggy wet seats) is not cost-effective. "This scheme would require certain utilities to be relocated..." Elam wrote. "Please find this information attached."

Price tag to relocate utilities (professional fees and arena demolition and renovation not included): $2.3 to $3.6 million.

We've been writing for many months about the incredible gall of the city manager and city attorney, who, week after week, usher the Dallas City Council into closed-door sessions to discuss this giant public project.

City Attorney Sam Lindsay admitted in this column two months ago that if it's not a legal matter, he doesn't bother checking to make sure that what the city staff plans to brief the council on in executive session is legitimate closed-door material, as narrowly specified in the Texas Open Meetings Act.

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