Kokomo Common Council members were eager to play ball on Tuesday, approving the issuing of $11 million in bonds to construct a new downtown baseball stadium.

Council members approved the bonds at an interest rate of 2.5 percent from Huntington Bank, meaning it will make an annual payment of about $900,000 conservatively on the bonds. It also appropriated $1 million in wastewater utility revenue as a capital contribution toward the project.

Bonding for the $9 million stadium, which will also include $2.5 million toward flood mitigation in the downtown area, means the city will take on debt to repay the bonds over the next 15 years.

The city will close on the bonds on June 3, which will be repaid through the city’s economic development income tax revenue. The city received about $1.6 million in EDIT last year, meaning there shouldn’t be any problem making the payments, so long as city officials set aside the required funds each year.

“This is the only debt that we’d be taking on, because the only debt we had currently was the parking garage and we paid that off early,” Council President Mike Kennedy said. “We got great interest rates on the new bonds. To be able to do some flood mitigation down there, as well, will be a great improvement for the community.”

In order to bond for the new stadium project, the city will retire more than $6 million of existing debt used to construct its downtown parking garage by paying it off five years early. The city appropriated $6,090,000 out of its general fund on Tuesday to pay off the bonds.

In addition to bonding at a favorable interest rate, Kennedy said the city also refinanced its sewer works revenue bonds at the new rate of 2.5 percent after they were originally issued at 4.3 percent in 2005. The bond interest savings is expected to save taxpayers $350,000 over the next 10 years.

The result of the bonds will be a downtown stadium located north of Vaile Avenue, between Union Street and Apperson Way, which would border the right field fence. The main entrance for the stadium would be located to the south on Vaile.

Plans call for 2,350 stadium seats with an additional 1,200 to 1,500 spots for lawn seating and a field with a synthetic playing surface. Individual flip-down seats will be located behind home plate leading up to the press area, while bench seats with a back rest will lead up behind each of the dugouts.

The stadium, Council Vice President Bob Hayes said, will have a great impact on future economic development in downtown Kokomo.

“This is going to be a great economic development tool for the city,” he said. “I can envision bringing prospective employers to the city of Kokomo, and one of the places we want to take them is downtown and show them outstanding things like this are happening.”

Kennedy, like many others, is anticipating what other impacts a new stadium could have in downtown Kokomo. Some of those possibilities include concerts and events being held inside the stadium and bringing a professional or semi-professional team to Kokomo.

“Cities with downtown baseball stadiums are beginning to become very popular,” he said. “We’re hoping to get a team in here that people can call their own, or perhaps see IUK add baseball to their sports agenda.”

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