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Raleigh Council Supports Larger Arena

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RALEIGH — The Raleigh City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday tosupport a larger, 21,000 seat arena, which will require an additional $48million in Wake County hotel-restaurant tax revenue.

Wake County commissioners have already voted to support the larger,multi-use arena, which could help Raleigh lure a National Hockey Leagueexpansion team. The arena also would become the new home for N.C. Statebasketball. Clearing for a site near Carter-Finley already has begun andbidding on construction could begin in 60 days. If construction startssoon, the building could be ready in 1999.

The vote gives the Centennial Authority, which is planning the arena,most the $120 million in funding it will need to build the larger arena.

Council member John Odom garnered the necessary votes for the largerarena by proposing that the city and county each get $1 million in arenarevenue each year for the general fund.

Council member Julie Graw says she felt her vote for Odom's plan wasthe right thing to do.

Mayor Tom Fetzer has opposed spending more tax revenue on alarger design. He wanted the council to explore a smaller, less expensivearena. Fetzer and council members Paul Coble and Marc Scruggs Jr. votedagainst Odom's funding plan. Voting for the extra funding were Odom, Graw,Kieran Shanahan, Stacy Miller and Brad Thompson.

"I can't explain why we are still talking about a 21,000-seat arena,"Fetzer said during a council meeting last month, "and Idon't think we will get a true picture of the cost savings until theauthority commits itself to a smaller arena. This arena is too big."

After Tuesday's vote, Fetzer had one final message for the citizens ofWake County.

The council on Tuesday also rejected Fetzer's proposal to put the arenafunding issue to a public vote.

Council member Kieran Shanahan, who broke with a tradition of votingwith Fetzer said the new arena will be worth the battle.

Now, Wake County commissioners must sign off on Odom's revenue-sharingproposal.