City one step closer to convention center

JONESBORO, AR (AP/KAIT) - The city of Jonesboro is one step closer to a new multi-million dollar convention center.

On Wednesday the Arkansas State University Board of Trustees approved the sale of the former Arkansas Services Center, located at 2920 McClellan Dr.

The board agreed to sell to Jonesboro City Water & Light - which bid $1.1 million for the property. The property includes nearly 40 acres.

"We will purchase the property and we will loan funds to the (Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission) for property development," said CWL Assistant Manager Jake Rice.

"CWL as a partner will be putting up a $4 million line of credit and then $1.1 million of that will go towards the purchase price of that property," Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin.

Mayor Perrin estimates the total cost of the convention center project to be $39 million to $42 million.

As reported earlier on Region 8 News, the purchase is the latest development in the city's effort in the past several years to build a convention center, featuring restaurants and hotels.

"This is my fourth round in trying to get a convention center here," said Mayor Perrin.

He is hopeful the newest round of negotiations with a group of developers from Illinois will close the deal, as the group has been working with the city for about two years in scouting suitable locations and convenient financing.

"These are the same developers we've been dealing with up in Illinois. So that makes me feel better in the fact that we had made an offer on the 15 acres right behind the Hilton Gardens, but as you know that land actually had a first right of refusal. (The land owners) exercised that and bought the land out from under us. That's when we had to find another location," Mayor Perrin said.

"As the developers started looking around and looking in town, they felt like the convention center would be an excellent deal because it had 43 acres. It gives the ability of A & P a way to get monies in to retire their debt very quickly with CWL. If all this goes to plan they probably won't have the note more than three years, five years max."

Mayor Perrin is scheduled to meet with representatives from CWL and A & P commissioners Friday morning to finalize contracts to send to the developers. He says if plans continue to move forward, Jonesboro residents could have a convention center in the city by mid-2015.

"If they can get their financing in line like we feel like they can, then I think by (September 13) that they will start very quickly into construction."

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