JPA members plan to pay off arena bonds early

By: Kayla Bremer

Officials say they have a plan to pay off the cost for the new Pinnacle Bank Arena early.

The three members of the Joint Public Agency (JPA) overseeing the construction and financing of the West Haymarket Development Project announced a new repayment policy for some of the $353.5 million in bonds.

Mayor Chris Beutler says this policy means the arena project will cost even less than originally planned.

“The arena is not just financially secure but we now have a plan to pay off some of the arena bonds early,” Mayor Beutler said.

The JPA, made up of Mayor Beutler, University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare and City Council member Doug Emery says computer models used to predict future revenue show there will be extra money for early debt repayment.

“I think what it sets in place is a roadmap for when the dollars come in, how the dollars are going to be allocated,” Clare said.  “The dollars as they're allocated will pay off our obligations first and to the extent there's extra.”

Clare says the extra money will be used for the original purpose which was to build the arena and pay off debt, not future city projects or roads.

The earliest the JPA could begin paying off bonds without a penalty is 2021 and based on the current computer projections, the JPA couldn't begin saving for the early debt retirement until 2018.

“It should be mentioned that these are very long-term projections and as you might imagine, trying to project something precisely 25–35 years in the future is no small task so there will be changes as we go along,” City Finance Director Steve Hubka said.

This proposed policy will be on the JPA's agenda for public comment and adoption at their meeting on December 19th.  It begins at 3 p.m. and will be held in the City Council Chambers at the County–City Building.