TEXAS VIEW: Chuck Yeager proved he had the ‘right stuff’THE POINT: Amid the pandemic it would be good to think of those humble heroes who embraced the dangers and sacrifices to take on the task of getting things done.

It’s been just more than a month since the voting public made its voice heard and thoroughly rejected an ambitious proposition that would have transformed the Amarillo Civic Center complex and produced additional momentum throughout the city’s downtown district.
Perhaps the $319 million overall pricetag ($275 million in the bond proposal) was too steep, and it was a huge ask in this time of economic uncertainty. Likewise, perhaps a number of people were scared off as a result of a campaign that incorrectly insisted property taxes would increase dramatically. Either way, the deal won’t be done – at least as it was proposed on the ballot.
Virtually everyone agrees the Civic Center is badly in need of an update and doing so would put Amarillo on more secure footing as far as retaining and bringing events to the community. The more events, the more people staying in hotels and motels, eating in restaurants and shopping with retailers. Increased economic vibrancy also is something virtually everyone can get behind.
Toward that end, Mayor Ginger Nelson last week appointed a committee to take a deep dive into viable alternatives in getting the project back online. The group’s top priority for now is to look into possible public-private funding options as a way to reduce the cost and accompanying sticker shock.
“Many people are telling me they’re for the project, but with COVID and all of the uncertainty, that it just wasn’t the right time,” she said in our story. “Some people are even saying there were public-private funding options that we could have looked at. I think we need to do that as quickly as we possibly can, so I’ve appointed a small committee to go and gather more information on public-private partnerships.”
We applaud the city’s efforts to see what other possibilities might exist as far as getting this job done at a lower cost. One of the regular questions to surface from the public throughout the Civic Center campaign asked if it could be done in phases. The project had a number of moving parts that were dependent on each other, and it made sense to wonder if a big project could be broken down into a handful of smaller projects.
Whether that emerges as a possibility remains to be seen. As Nelson pointed out, there is a sense of urgency to this committee’s work as some possibilities could require legislative approval. The legislature convenes next month with the usual abundance of priorities and a pandemic-sized budget gap to deal with.
“One of the reasons that we are trying to move so quickly is if some of these options involve seeking legislative approval, we need to get right on that,” Nelson said. “The committee needs to quickly talk with our legislators and see if there is anything there that we could possibly reduce the cost for this project.”
The committee will also spend some time looking at how other Texas communities were able to get similar projects done. Undoubtedly, their expertise and best practices will be beneficial to the city.
The good news here is Amarillo’s elected leaders are looking for ways to move forward on a project vital to the city’s long-term economic health. They heard the message and they are reacting to it – because the original need has not gone away.