Starting with the 2011-2012 season, the IceMen will continue to practice at Swonder but will play home games at the new downtown Evansville arena, the Ford Center, which is slated to open in the fall of 2011. The $127 million arena will hold 9,400 fans for hockey, and will also host college basketball games (with seating for 9,600), concerts (with seating for up to 11,000) and many other events. It will replace Roberts Stadium, which was built in 1956 and can not be configured to host ice hockey due to its small floor size and lack of underground refrigeration technology. The new arena will be bounded by Main Street, Martin Luther King Blvd, 6th Street, and Walnut Street. The main entrance will be on Main Street, facing northwest.
The building will include over 20 luxury suites and loge boxes, 6 full-size concession stands and several additional concession kiosks, more than 20 different restroom facilities, over 100 wheelchair spaces with companion seats, 4 passenger elevators and 2 escalators. Behind the scenes, two of the arena’s locker rooms will be designed specifically for and dedicated entirely to hockey.
Financially, the arena project is not reliant on general property taxes, and property taxes have not and will not be raised to fund the project. The three primary sources of public financing are the Food & Beverage Tax, Casino Aztar riverboat revenues, and Downtown Development Area TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District funds. [The TIF program, instituted in 1984, allows a portion of Downtown property taxes to be reinvested in Downtown development projects; taxpayers in the TIF district pay the same property tax rate as those outside the district.]
It is important to note that NONE of the funds being used to finance the arena are legally available to the City of Evansville for payment toward regular operating expenses, so using them has no effect on the City’s standard operating budget. Thus, the development of the arena is not taking financing away from important things like education, public safety and street maintenance.
The arena was designed by renowned sports facility architectural firm Populous, which has produced the blueprints for several NHL teams’ arenas, including those of the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Populous has also spearheaded several prominent projects around the Midwest, including St. Louis’ new Busch Stadium, Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, Chicago’s United Center, Nashville’s LP Field, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, and Victory Field in Indianapolis, which has been recognized as the “Best Minor League Ballpark in America” by Baseball America and Sports Illustrated. The firm, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri, has also designed many other famous sports facilities around the world, including New York’s new Yankee Stadium and both Wembley Stadium and Wimbledon Centre Court in London.
Pictures courtesy of Hunt Construction.
For more information about the building’s design, naming rights, traffic flow and parking, project financing, public safety and more, visit www.evansvillearenaproject.com. Also, you can check out the arena’s webcam, day or night, here.