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Saturday, April 01, 2023

Plans for Sports Events Center spark disagreement between city, county

<p><span>An illustration of the proposed sports center at Celebration Pointe.</span></p>

An illustration of the proposed sports center at Celebration Pointe.

A presentation to the county commission Oct. 15 about a possible Sports Events Center at Celebration Pointe has sparked more questions than answers between city and county officials.

The facility, which would host sporting events such as basketball and volleyball tournaments, would be paid for with bed tax dollars, which comes from tourist revenue, said county spokesperson Mark Sexton. 

Mayor Lauren Poe sent a letter Tuesday to County Chair Charles Chestnut IV voicing concern about the possible redevelopment project, asking the county to reconsider the proposal. 

Poe also wrote the City Commission thought the two parties agreed to focus on inequities between East and West Gainesville. 

“Diverting additional economic advantages to the West side will only add to the already burgeoning disparity, as well as urban sprawl,” Poe wrote in the letter. 

Chestnut replied the same day with a letter stating the possible benefits of the Sports Events Center such as “a 30-year impact of $1.2 billion economic output” and more than 1,000 annual jobs. 

He also mentioned the county’s contribution to redevelopment in East Gainesville through the recent unification of Gainesville’s four Community Redevelopment Districts into one.

“This consolidation will make $70 million in funding available for transformational projects such as the Eighth and Waldo project,” Chestnut wrote. 

Sexton said the county was confused by the city’s reaction at the Oct. 17 joint meeting, as the facility would not be paid through CRA-allocated funds. 

“I don’t know if it was a collective amnesia or what kind of reports they were getting, but it’s as though those conversations [about funding] had never happened,” he told The Alligator

City Commissioner David Arreola said the board agreed to send the letter because building the Sports Events Center would be “breaking a promise to East Gainesville.” 

“It’s not too late to turn back,” Arreola said. “It’s not too late for them to change their mind, come back to the table and work with what they originally promised.

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An illustration of the proposed sports center at Celebration Pointe.

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