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Lifeline offered to Expo Center page 2
Discussion of Expo subsidy continues

Date published: 2/12/2009


Kalahari's construction timeline is in question now, as the resort tries to secure financing in a tough credit market.

Karen Hedelt, the city's acting director of economic development, said she expects to know whether the Kalahari project will move forward by late spring or early summer.

Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for the Silver Cos., said Kalahari owner Todd Nelson is pursuing various financing options and, "it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when" the project will happen.

Hedelt said the city opportunity fund and the EDA's contribution--which comes from bond fees, not taxes--will allow the Expo Center to maintain its conference business in the meantime.

City Manager Phillip Rodenberg said city and Expo officials will sit down next week to set parameters for how the money will be granted, and what it can be used for. He said the city plans to grant around $15,000 a month to the center to help it keep events business going.

EDA Member Joe Wilson called the measure a way of "buying time," and Hedelt called it a "lifeline" to help the center maintain its operations for five or six months.

Expo Center owner Tom Ballantine said the money will allow him to significantly discount his facilities to groups that will bring additional spending to Fredericksburg.

Those groups often request his space for free or at significantly reduced cost, he said, and when he can't deliver that, Fredericksburg loses them to cities with publicly supported convention centers.

"We have already put the city in the convention business and we need to stay there," Ballantine said. "If we just sit back here and sit on our hands, there's a lot of business that will pass us by."

Emily Battle: 540/374-5413
Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com

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