Monday, February 25, 2008

An Op-Ed from a while back...

The following was published in the Shreveport Times, I believe about year ago. Skip said in an e-mail to me that he got some mildly positive feedback from it.

- Loren

By Skip Peel:

As an advocate of economic development projects that recognize the potential of downtown Shreveport and the Red River, I would like to propose a facility that would more closely join the two. Rivergate would be a multi-use facility that would host public and sponsored events, allow for increased recreational river access and provide supplemental parking in support of the Convention Center and Hotel, Red River Entertainment District and Festival Plaza.

The proposed location is the northern bank of Cross Bayou at its intersection with the Red River. The property is approximately 15 acres running north from the bayou mouth and between the river and Clyde Fant Parkway. The property was purchased by Horseshoe Shreveport L.L.C. in 2000 as a potential site for the relocation of the Barnwell Center should Horseshoe be successful in securing an additional gaming license to develop a casino on the Shreveport riverfront. The current owner is Harrah’s through its acquisition of the Horseshoe gaming properties. The value of the land without a gaming use or private sector development interest (there is no access) would appear to be negligible. If acquisition is possible, I propose the following project.

Rivergate would be similar to the Stoner Ave. boat launch but approximately 2 ½ times its size with 5 double launch ramps, surface parking for 200 boat trailers and tow vehicles (or 400 cars) and public restrooms. Additional improvements would include an all weather structure to house event staff, a spectator area with a grand stand and an extension of “Streetscape” pedestrian connections to downtown. Such a facility would serve the following purposes: Special event river access (major professional and amateur fishing tournaments, boat races and triathlons), events requiring a large, secure hard-surface staging area (motorcycle rallies, bicycle tours or 3 0n 3 basketball tournaments), convenient secure parking much needed in the riverfront area and improved public recreational boating access. The facility design could also provide rescue and enforcement access for the Shreveport Police and Fire Departments and the Caddo Sheriff’s Department. Access to the site from Clyde Fant Parkway would allow private development of the adjacent land. Imagine a developed river’s edge extending north to the Downtown Airport.

All publicly funded facilities should be judged by their costs and benefits. Based on published cost figures for the Stoner Ave. launch site facility, Rivergate should cost in the area of $4 million not including property acquisition and improvements to the northern extension of Clyde Fant Parkway. This is among the types of river oriented projects that the Red River Waterway Commission was created to fund. Commission funding has made possible Shreveport’s Riverview Park, Bossier City’s River Walk and our two boat launches. According to statistics published by the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority, Red River events for the period 1997-2007 generated $39 million in economic impact. Current annual impact is averaging $5 million. Though the SRSA can be proud of its success in securing and hosting river events, in my opinion it faces some real facility challenges. The existing river launch sites were not designed for special events. They were designed for recreational boating access. When events are conducted at either site, the boating public is left with one launch of approximately 90 spaces and 2 double ramps. Major events which bring the greatest economic benefit and significant national media attention are difficult to host at the existing facilities. Rivergate would allow us to host those events, support existing nearby venues and has the potential to double the size of the downtown Shreveport riverfront.

Skip Peel has served as: Director, Shreveport-Bossier Sports Museum of Champions; Executive Director, December on the Red, Inc.; Chairman, Shreveport-Bossier Attractions Association and director and officer of the board of Downtown Shreveport Unlimited.