CHICAGO -- Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and a group of city business leaders have called for the establishment of a stadium authority that would include the city, Wayne County, and Michigan to "plan, finance, build, and manage" a new baseball stadium for the Detroit Tigers.
The idea of a stadium authority was embraced by Mayor Young at a press conference called by a business task force on Wednesday. But Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara, who has been developing a financing plan for the stadium, contended the county would have to own the facility.
The preliminary financing plan calls for the county to levy a 5% tax on hotel/motel rooms countywide for 25 years to support a tax-exempt bond issue. Revenues from the Tigers team would be used to back a taxable issue.
"I am fully supportive of an approach to building the stadium that has both city and county participation in the process," Mr. McNamara said in a statement released Wednesday that called on Mayor Young to meet with county officials to discuss the stadium. "As far as stadium ownership goes, the hotel/motel tax act requires that the county own the stadium. There is no legal authority for the city or a joint authority to levy such a tax."
Mayor Young and Mr. McNamara met yesterday, according to the mayor's spokeswoman, Teresa Blossom. But she said nothing was finalized on the stadium.
A law passed by the state Legislature in 1971 gave the county the power to levy the tax for a domed stadium for the Tigers and the Detroit Lions football team. While the stadium was never built. Wayne County officials have contended the county still has the ability to levy the tax.
The same law, however, calls for the creation of a state authority that would lease the stadium to the county, which in turn could lease the facility to the Tigers, according to a legal source.
Ms. Blossom said the mayor was willing to compromise on the ownership of the stadium, with the county owning the facility until the bonds mature. At that time, the ownership would revert to the city, she added.
She said that A. Alfred Taubman, a local businessman who has been Mayor Young's representative on stadium talks with Wayne County, pointed out in the press conference that a joint authority could investigate the use of other revenues sources besides the hotel/motel tax to back bonds for the project.
In addition, the mayor said the city could help provide funding for the project, although no specific funding sources were discussed, Ms. Blossom said.
In fact, The Detroit News reported that the mayor said the city could help provide funding for the project.
As for the state, John Truscott, a spokesman for Gov. John Engler, said the only involvement the administration would have in the project was to consider creating an enterprise zone in Detroit. County officials have talked about the possibility of having an enterprise zone designated around the stadium.
"We have said there will be no money from the state for the project," Mr. Truscott said.
Meanwhile, Mr. McNamara said in the statement that the county would go through with its plan to submit a site and financing proposal to the Tigers organization by Aug. 1. But, he warned, "the chances of that proposal being accepted by the Tigers are far greater if the city of Detroit is a real partner."
A spokesman for the Tigers did not return phone calls. While Tigers officials have said they want a new stadium by opening day 1995, they currently have a lease with the city for Tiger Stadium until 2008.
Last month, the county, through its financial adviser Tucker Anthony Inc., sent out a request for qualifications for senior managing underwriters to 10 firms to handle a possible sale of $150 million to $200 million of tax-exempt and taxable bonds.
Wayne Workman, a senior vice president at Tucker Anthony, has said the county would select a senior manager, a minority or woman-owned firm as co-senior manager, and a team of underwriters in August, after the county, the city and the Tigers reach an agreement.
The county's exact plan to issue tax-exempt bonds for part of the financing is not known. But despite the fact the Tax Reform Act of 1986 ended the use of tax-exempt financing for sports facilities, county officials apparently believe they can structure a bond deal in such a way that the tax-exempt portion of the deal passes muster with the Internal Revenue Service.