Businesses in way of proposed Evansville arena-WEB ONLY

Evansville officials have a downtown site in mind for a new 11,000-seat arena that they hope to start building this summer. Some business owners located in the two-block area, however, are clear that they want to stay.

Much of the property is owned by the O’Daniel family, which operates D-Patrick Ford on the site. The family’s attorney, Pat Shoulders, said the O’Daniels intend to stay at their current location.

Shoulders said moving the dealership elsewhere would be difficult because there already are Ford dealerships on the city’s east and west sides, and automobile companies have restrictions on the locations for dealerships.

Mark Thomas, regional vice president of Regent Communications, moved the company’s five radio stations last May to a building owned by a subsidiary of D-Patrick Ford – and also doesn’t want to move.

But while Visions 3 salon owner Ray Reising said he’s not looking forward to going through the hassle of finding a new location, he’s willing to sell his building because he believes the new arena would improve downtown Evansville.

Reising has heard complaints about a lack of parking downtown, but he said he believed public garages had plenty of spots to handle the traffic a new arena would bring.

“I’m all about the arena,” he told the Evansville Courier & Press.

Arena manager John Kish, who recently oversaw an expansion of the Indianapolis International Airport, said he is optimistic a deal would be reached with the O’Daniel family. He said the city has a backup plan in case the family would not sell, but he would not elaborate.

Consultants studying downtown identified eight potential locations for the new arena, but the D-Patrick site is the preferred spot.

Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel has said construction would begin this summer and finish in late summer 2011. The new arena, estimated to cost between $117 million and $127 million, would replace the city’s 52-year-old Roberts Stadium.

Officials have estimated it would cost $32 million to renovate Roberts Stadium, the home of the University of Evansville basketball teams and other events.

Valerie Ewers, owner of Jeannes Gelato across the street from the proposed arena site, said the new arena could draw more people downtown and help her restaurant and others, which depend on lunch crowds of downtown workers.

“I used to not be much of a believer in it,” Ewers said of the arena project. “Now I think I am.”

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