CHICAGO -- Arena fever has struck Columbus, where plans are in the works to finance facilities for Ohio State University and the city.

City and university officials last week agreed that Columbus would be home to two new arenas in the coming years.

According to William Shkurti, the university's vice president for finance, a 20,000- to 21,000-seat arena will be built on the school's campus at a cost of $65 million to $75 million and used primarily for the basketball program.

The city is pursuing a similarly sized arena for its downtown area that could be home to a professional hockey or basketball team as well as a site for conventions and other events, according to Tetri Farell, communications director for Mayor Greg Lashutka. While Farell said the price of the arena has not been determined, a local news report pegged the cost at up to $120 million.

Farell said that under the agreement, the university's arena would not contain skyboxes and would be used only for university events.

That agreement is viewed as important for financing the city's arena.

The city wanted to be sure the two facilities would not compete with each other for revenues from corporate purchases of skyboxes or from events such as concerts, Farell said. Still, the financing plan for the arena in downtown Columbus is up in the air.

Wyatt Kingseed, Columbus' finance director, said a final decision to build the city's arena and a method of financing it are "down the road."

In the meantime, Lashutka has not ruled out any financing means, 'including using city money to help build the arena, according to Farell.

"All things are under discussion," Farell said, adding that the mayor "does not foresee it built completely on public money."

Farell said Columbus would like to lure a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League franchise to the proposed arena. She cited a recent study done for the city that showed an arena would lose about $1 million a year without a professional sports team playing there.

If the city's minor-league hockey team, The Chill, were to play in the arena, the facility would break even, according to Farell. A professional team would net the city $7 million a year, she said.

Now that Columbus has reached an agreement with Ohio State University, Farell said, the city will begin to dram up community and business support for the city's arena.

Meanwhile, the university has a three-part financing plan for its arena, according to Shkurti. He said $30 million to $35 million of tax-exempt revenue bonds would be sold for the facility, while $20 million to $25 million would come from fund-raising and $15 million from Ohio's fiscal 1995-96 capital improvement budget.

He said the budget bill stipulated that the city and university reach an agreement on the arena question before state money could be released for the university's project. Shkurti pointed out that any bond issuance for the university arena is "at least a year off" and that the bonds would probably be folded into the university's regular bond issuance of about $50 million every 18 to 30 months. The university's 34-year-old St. John's arena would continue to be used for other sports programs after the new facility is completed by 1998, Shkurti said.

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