COEUR d'ALENE - The ad hoc committee charged with exploring the feasibility of building a multi-million dollar event center in Coeur d'Alene for North Idaho College is recommending the college move forward on the project.
The 17-member volunteer committee isn't recommending NIC build the arena quite yet, however.
It's just saying enough merit is there for the college to hire a professional to hammer out the final details on what the potential project could look like.
"We've answered the questions the best we can," Joe Dunlap, NIC president, told the college's board of trustees Wednesday night. "I don't know if we can take that to the next level with our expertise."
The committee studied facilities across the country run by eight other community colleges. Those facilities, from New York to Nebraska, ranged in size from 1,550- to 6,500-seat arenas where average attendance ranged from 100 people to 4,000 for sports and community events. They all operated in the black.
The committee also looked at a feasibility study from 2008 that said Coeur d'Alene could support such an arena, and that the economic impact for the area from an event center could be $7 million a year.
That told the committee that enough information is out there to warrant a deeper look at building a facility in Coeur d'Alene.
But, Dunlap said, if NIC wants to move forward on the project it should hire a professional consultant to craft a detailed proposal - essentially how big, what it would look like and where it would go. He asked the board to be ready to make a decision at next month's meeting.
"What I agree with is we can what-if this thing to death," he told the trustees. "With every type of endeavor, there is an element of risk."
Trustees said that could be too soon to make such a big decision.
One piece of information they want to wait for is whether businessman Doug Parker will be able to follow through on his intention to buy a piece of property near the US Bank Call Center and donate it to NIC for the site of the arena.
That roughly 20-acre parcel is one of two sites NIC has identified as a possible spot. The other is in Riverstone, off Seltice Way.
"I, like Ron, am not prepared for a decision," said Christie Wood, trustee, referring to fellow member Ron Nilson. "We have to struggle with, is this a part of our mission?"
Parker, who said in previous interviews he had made multiple offers for the land, told The Press Wednesday that negotiations between himself and the property owner, Washington Trust Bank, were "at odds" but still ongoing.
"They've been anything but helpful," he said. "At least so far."
NIC passed a resolution earlier that said the college would be interested in building a facility - with an estimated cost between $15 million and $20 million - so long as the college could operate the facility but not have taxpayers responsible for footing the bill.
NIC has a $10 million pledge from Lake City Development Corp., the city's urban renewal agency, but has to raise $5 million of its own before it can cash in LCDC's share.
If NIC hired a professional to fine tune a project proposal, that would mean NIC is taking on some costs.
"As I look at this I say, how can we recommend moving forward with hiring a consultant?" said Nilson, referring to NIC spending its own money despite passing the previous resolution. "If this takes away from that, we have to step out of the way."