Proposed New Music Hall Hangs in the Balance of Irving's Mayoral Election This Weekend

The proposed Irving Entertainment Center has been in a state of limbo for some time now, but a new chapter of the story will begin after this Saturday, when Irving voters return to the polls for a runoff vote.

As currently planned, the Irving Entertainment Center will house 11 restaurants, a luxury hotel and a music hall with a capacity ranging from 3,000 to 7,200 seats. It will cost a total of $250 million to build and furnish, with $200 million coming from city municipal bonds. The rest of the money will by funded by private investors.

Both of the the two mayoral candidates in this weekend's upcoming runoff election, former city council member Beth Van Duyne (who won the primary with 41 percent of the vote) and the incumbent Herbert Gears, favor building an entertainment center -- but they have differing ideas on the end result.

Gears, who has championed the Irving Entertainment Center since its inception, is working alongside developer Billy Bob Barnett to design the complex. Barnett, who heads Las Colinas Group LP, stands to own and operate all of the center's concessions.

Van Duyne, meanwhile, believes that the proposed plans have been shrouded in foul play.

"I'd like to find out if there's a potential fraud," she said in an interview with DC9 last month.

Van Duyne says she believes the center's restaurants shouldn't be owned by one single entity. She says that allowing independent restaurant owners to set up shop in the center, rather than letting Barnett own the concessions, would be better for the local economy.

Like many others, she also believes that Irving isn't ready for a music hall just yet. And her opposition to the proposed center clearly has Gears on the offensive. He's spent a good portion of his campaign contributions -- over $500,000 of which came from Barnett and his associates -- on television ads and glossy flyers that sling mud at Van Duyne. At least in part because of these contributions from Barnett, the Irving mayoral election is now "the most expensive suburban mayor's race in North Texas history," reports the Dallas Morning News.

Whether all that money results in a new music venue will be determined at the polls on Saturday.

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