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Arena, convention center bond sale gets OK

The Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to sell $15 million in bonds as financial backing for expansions of the Spokane Convention Center and Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Voters in April approved an extension of existing sales and room taxes to pay for $65 million in projects by the Spokane Public Facilities District, a separate arm of local government.

But the PFD required additional financial resources up front to obtain all of the money needed from the municipal bond market, so the agency turned to the county for the general obligation bonds.

Officials said the county bonds would be repaid through existing tax collections from the PFD.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted in favor of a room tax increase to establish a reserve fund to protect the PFD project in case of an economic downturn.

Once a reserve fund is built up, additional money would go for expanded sports facilities.

Voters in April approved an extension of the PFD’s 0.10 percent sales tax and 2 percent hotel-motel tax from 2033 to 2043 to pay for the projects.

In that measure, proponents promised that the expansion would not create new taxes or raise existing taxes, and it did not mention that county bond support would be needed.

The Convention Center would get 91,000 square feet of new space, making it more competitive for national conventions. Spokane River shore improvements would be needed as well.

In addition, the Arena would get 750 more seats in the open west end of the upper bowl so that it could compete for future NCAA men’s basketball tournament play.

Commissioners approved Tuesday’s resolution without comment.