Rock Hill officials say they've devised a creative and financially sound way to pay for a cycling center at Riverwalk, a planned community on the old Celanese industrial site.
First pitched more than five years ago, plans for the $5 million park now include a bicycle racing track known as a velodrome, courses for BMX and Cyclocross and mountain biking trails.
City Council members will vote Monday on a proposal to build the facility with bonds designated as Recovery Zone economic development bonds, provided on a one-time basis as part of the federal stimulus program.
The bonds will be purchased by Carolina First Bank (now TD Bank) through the bank's New Markets Tax Credit financing program, according to a written agreement. Under the program, roughly $1.2 million of the original $5 million debt would be forgiven after seven years.
To pay off the debt, the city would budget $375,000 annually from hospitality taxes, which come from a 2 percent tax on prepared food and drinks.
"It's probably the most unusual financing we've done since I've been at the city," said finance director David Vehaun, the incoming city manager. "It takes advantage of incentives that are available in the market, and combines some of those in a way that protects the city."
Described by supporters as a national caliber hub for amateur cycling, the project would include:
A banked, circular velodrome track with stadium seats and a press box
A BMX Supercross track - dirt with lots of high jumps - described as the only one of its kind on the East Coast
Cyclocross, a hilly course in which cyclists dismount and push their bikes during races
Some opponents remain skeptical. They warn of the potential for another U.S. National Whitewater Center, which has struggled with debt since opening in 2006 in western Mecklenburg County.
"I'm still not convinced that a velodrome will bring this economic activity that they say it will," Councilman Kevin Sutton said recently.
Complex financing plan
City officials touted the benefits of their approach, saying it would save $3.4 million over 20 years compared to a plan that relies on traditional bond methods.
A committee pledged at least $500,000 through private sponsorships, and city officials say they'll continue pursuing grants to reduce public costs.
Crews will start work at a time of historically low construction costs, and the facility will be completed at least a year ahead of schedule, allowing for competitions and public events that will generate tourism dollars.
At Riverwalk, a paved trail for walkers and bikers has attracted more than 9,000 visitors since opening in July .
The city is working with The Greens of Rock Hill to build the cycling center. Both believe it will be a key draw for Riverwalk, a planned 1,000-acre mixed-use community expected to include riverfront shops, homes and a business park.