NIC considers sports arena

Proposed facility would seat 5,000, also serve as event center

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COEUR d'ALENE - A combination event center and sports arena may be going up in Coeur d'Alene.

North Idaho College trustees gave the go-ahead during their board meeting Wednesday for the college's administration to explore the feasibility of building an event center in the Riverstone area, provided funding for construction of the facility comes from outside sources.

NIC president Joe Dunlap told college trustees that the college's existing indoor athletic facility, the Christianson Gymnasium, was built in 1949 and is in poor condition.

"It's limped along for quite some time," Dunlap said.

An event center would provide a new athletic facility for the college and likely a venue for other types of entertainment activities, he said.

Dunlap asked the board to consider commissioning a feasibility study for a potential event center, at the same time acknowledging that the college has "competing interests when it comes to capital projects." An immediate need, Dunlap said, is a new professional-technical education facility, a project already being explored by the trustees.

The board members present - Ron Nilson, Judy Meyer, Ken Howard and Todd Banducci - unanimously approved a resolution that the college shall "actively pursue and support efforts" to construct an event center/athletic facility that will ultimately be owned and operated by NIC. The trustees directed the administration to create a study committee to review the project and report back to the board.

The resolution sets strict parameters for NIC's involvement in the project, the No. 1 being consideration of the center's operating costs on taxpayers. The document notes that revenue from events at the center are projected to cover the facility's ongoing maintenance and operations.

"NIC must rely upon gifts, donations, and the participation of other funding resources to pay for the initial construction and land acquisition," states the resolution. It also indicates that because the area being considered for the center is within the River District of the Lake City Development Corp., the city of Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency, the project "could potentially be eligible for significant funding from that entity."

The resolution calls for NIC to have the "primary voice" in planning the facility's design and programming.

"It sounds like a remarkable opportunity," said Trustee Judy Meyer.

Trustee Ron Nilson said the project won't move forward if private funding fails to materialize, and there will be no obligation on the part of the college.

Mark Browning, NIC's vice president of community relations and marketing, said early discussions projected a 5,000-seat facility for basketball, volleyball and wrestling. Other configurations that would hold events like concerts and trade fairs may be different, he said.

The trustees are expected to consider funding opportunities further at their March 27 board meeting.

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