August 20, 2014

Missouri firm gets Columbia stadium design job

Columbia Council votes to spend $2 million on stadium architects, Populous Inc. of Kansas City. The architects are to meet with city staffers as well as with master developer Bob Hughes and minor league team owner Jason Freier.

Columbia decided Tuesday to pay a Missouri-based architectural firm $2 million to design and oversee construction of the stadium in the Bull Street neighborhood.

City Council voted to hire Populous Inc. of Kansas City for $2,025,000. Architects are to meet with city staffers as well as with master developer Bob Hughes and minor league team owner Jason Freier for them to review the designs. Part of the architects’ duties will be to keep the project on budget, assistant city manager Missy Gentry has said.

Populous bills itself as “a group of innovators, ground breakers and visionaries.” The company’s website states, “We design with futures in mind.”

Populous has offices in six U.S. cities – with the closest in Knoxville, Tenn. – and seven cities overseas, the website states. The company has had a hand in designing venues for the 2012 London Olympics. Other projects the company helped design are stadiums, including USC’s baseball stadium, as well as arenas, tennis centers and other sports sites across the nation and in other countries, the website indicates.

Council was to have selected an architectural firm at its July 15 meeting, but the vote was postponed. Populous was selected from among five companies that applied, Gentry said.

In another matter related to the $35 million ballpark that will double as a site for city events, council learned that construction bids are being sought and all submitals are due back by Sept. 2.

Council also approved using general fund money to pay for initial public utilities on the sprawling site until the city finalizes up to $29 million in construction loans. The loans are to be in the form of a bond issuance that will be repaid over 30 years from taxes that patrons pay at restaurants and bars.

Once the loans are floated, the tax money will be used to reimburse the general fund, said Jeff Palen, Columbia’s chief financial officer. The general fund is the city’s primary operating account.

Palen has been discussing for months the prospect of using general fund money until the loans are completed. Council endorsed the idea Tuesday through a formal resolution.

Ballpark supporters say it will attract 500,000 visitors yearly to the downtown area and will produce $411.5 million in taxes, wages and spending.

The $6 million balance for construction of a facility that would hold 8,500 spectators will be paid by Freier’s company, Hardball Capital of Atlanta.

Under a separate agreement signed earlier with Freier and Hughes, the stadium is to be substantially complete in March 2016.

Gentry, City Hall’s liaison for the Bull Street development, said this summer that she hoped groundbreaking for the stadium would occur in about October. It was unclear Tuesday if that schedule remains realistic.

The city’s contract with Freier requires that he have final approval from Minor League Baseball to bring a professional baseball team to the capital city by sometime in October.

But he does not have to disclose which team it would be. Freier has said he will make a public announcement after he is granted permission to bring a team to Columbia.

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