Showdown At Las Colinas

A new convention and entertainment center, including a 5,200-seat concert hall, is on the drawing board in Irving, Texas, with the backing of the city and Live Nation. So far, it’s managed to fend off a challenge from a former mayor backed by rival AEG and is now a step closer to reality.

The $250 million Las Colinas center awaits a court ruling in a bond validation suit that will determine whether its financing plan is legal, according to the Dallas Morning News. But an appellate court has upheld the dismissal of at least one challenge.

Former Irving Mayor Joe Putnam and his group, Irving Taxpayers Opposed to Illegal and Wasteful Use of Tax Money, attempted to challenge the financing in part because the project now includes a concert hall and will cost more than the bond amount approved by voters in 2007. A previous challenge was dismissed because the group failed to post a $10 million bond to move forward.

A North Texas appeals court ruled Dec. 13 that Putnam’s challenge was correctly dismissed but the lower court is yet to rule on the validity of the financing itself.

Putnam and his group object to the funding, claiming the vote approving tax revenue for the center was improperly conducted because it didn’t allow residents to vote separately on the entertainment and convention center, according to the Morning News. They also argue the city should not be allowed to use revenue beyond what voters approved, as is now planned.

The Las Colinas Group backing the project must put up $50 million in private investment for the entertainment center’s construction costs. It’s referred to AEG as an “enemy” that “may be attempting to sabotage” the project since questions began to be raised about its cost.

Apparently it’s been something of an open secret in Texas that AEG is funding the group’s challenge. The Las Colinas entertainment center and concert hall is a stone’s throw from AEG’s Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas.

But Putnam attorney Jim Harris told the paper that AEG’s involvement was transparent, and that the company believes the city’s business model and financial plans are too optimistic. “Ultimately, in their view, it will hurt the citizens of Irving,” Harris told the paper.

“I don’t believe anywhere in their mission statement it says for AEG to be the tax champions for the city of Irving,” current Mayor Herbert Gears was quoted responding.

Harris countered that AEG’s financial assistance to Putnam’s group has no bearing on whether the city’s financing plan is legal. “The law is the law,” he told the paper.