Arena games

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"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.

In other words, closing the doors is simply routine--and since only two members of the city council ever challenge the city attorney's wisdom on this point, it seems likely that this cavalier, ofttimes illegal, behavior will continue.

I just didn't know how likely until last week.
In a May 31 memo we unearthed, sent from new arena-project director David Morgan to John Ware's administrative assistant, Marsha Evans, it becomes painstakingly clear that the arena will remain permanently underground.

"At the request of John Ware...Downtown Sports Development Project (DSDP) briefings should be on future Executive Session agendas every Wednesday," Morgan wrote. "Per your request we will check with the Agenda Office every Friday to verify if the briefings are, in fact, scheduled for Wednesday of the following week. If they are not on the agenda we will contact you to inform you of the status."

And if, for some reason, the briefings are erroneously set for open session for Wednesday of the following week, we will set fire to the briefing packets. With kind regards, etc.

Last February 16, Dallas taxpayer and oil investor Aubrey Black wrote to councilman Glenn Box about this new arena idea.

"Dear Mr. Box: According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, the new arena will generate 340 times as much revenue with only 12.6 percent more seats than a renovation. DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THIS?

"I ask only two things. 1) Please don't put ANY of the debt on the Dallas taxpayers, either sales tax, ad valorem, or any other tax. 2) Check the original projection on Reunion Arena against actual. (You sure haven't checked DART projections with actual.)

"Very truly yours, Aubrey Black."
Three weeks later, Box replied.
"Dear Mr. Black: Thank you so much for your recent letter concerning the importance of keeping the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars in downtown Dallas. I completely concur with you, and I have been working toward this goal for over a year now.

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Laura Miller

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