January 05, 2012Greensboro's mayor and city councilmembers are meeting this week, one on one, with interim City Manager Denise Turner Roth and Coliseum Manager Matt Brown to discuss matters, including spending money on the War Memorial Auditorium, or on a new performing arts center at that site.
On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Mayor Robbie Perkins said that he had not had his meeting yet but that the arena would be paid off this year, creating a revenue stream to pay for needed improvements to a building that underwent its last major renovation 20 years ago. Perkins said he was on the committee 18 years ago that reached a settlement with the contractor for the huge stucco panels on the exterior of the building that were not built to specifications. He said they have lasted much longer than was anticipated, but that they are not 40-year panels.
He said they didn't want the facility to suffer from deferred maintenance and that it is always a challenge to keep up with the other competing facilities in the region.
Councilmember Zack Matheny, who is the council's liaison to the War Memorial Commission, said on Wednesday, that he thought the auditorium needed work but he had not heard the rumor that a proposal was going to be discussed to spend $60 million on a new performing arts center. Matheny said, "$60 million is awfully aggressive." But he noted that his meeting with Roth was on Thursday, Jan. 5, so he didn't know what the deal was that would be discussed.
Matheny and Perkins both said the seats in the arena needed to be replaced and should be replaced before the ACC men's basketball tournament next year.
Matheny said, "The luxury boxes that you get high rent for haven't been upgraded in 15 years."
He also said, "I agree that we've got to do something to War Memorial Auditorium. I've been saying that for three years." But, he added, "I'd be cautious about using certificates of participation, and that $60 million seems like an aggressive number."
He noted that two bond referendums to provide funding to renovate or rebuild War Memorial Auditorium had failed.
Matheny said that if the Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to move to the old Canada Dry building and were willing to pay the rent, "I'm fine with that. Let them use it." Perkins said that moving the visitors bureau to the old Canada Dry building was nothing new; the idea has been around for years.
Matheny did say the city should have done a better job with the Coliseum Inn that it bought and tore down across the street. He said the city didn't grade the lot and left a big hole, which didn't improve the look of the neighborhood.
Councilmember Jim Kee said he had heard about doing something at the Coliseum but hadn't had his meeting with Roth, so he didn't know much other than what he had heard from people talking and didn't want to comment before he had the information.
Councilmember Nancy Vaughan, who spent Christmas in Italy, said she had just gotten back to town and hadn't gotten an email about it, so she didn't know much about what was going on, other than she had a meeting scheduled. Evidently the people in Rome, the home of the original Colosseum, were not talking about the Greensboro Coliseum when Vaughan was there.