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Raleigh City Council gives go-ahead for amphitheater plans

City Manager Russell Allen asked council members for nearly $60,000 to design a 5,000-seat downtown amphitheater.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The City Council on Tuesday voted to move forward with plans to design an outdoor entertainment venue across from the Raleigh Convention Center, even though the city hasn't found a corporate sponsor to share the cost.

Calling it a "good business venture" for downtown, City Manager Russell Allen asked council members for nearly $60,000 for plans on a scaled-back version of a 5,000-seat amphitheater at the corner of McDowell and Lenoir streets.

Construction could cost an estimated $1.5 million, and the facility could open as early as next May.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said that the city has about $500,000 left over from construction on the convention center, which opened in September. The rest would come from revenue from an accommodation tax on hotels and restaurant meals that is split between the city and Wake County.

Philip Isley was the only City Council member to vote against the project. In light of the economy, he wants the city to wait a year to see if the economy improves and the city can find a sponsor. Concert promoter Live Nation recently backed out of a deal.

"I think doing this right now (with the economy the way it is) is a mistake," he said. "Sponsorship is the bigger issue. You need an enormous entity, I think, to finance this thing."

Meeker, however, said he believes that in the current economy, now is a great time to move ahead and that it would mean immediate jobs.

"With the economy the way it is, it is actually just the time you want to do projects, if you can," he said. "This money is sitting in a reserve account, which doesn't do anybody any good."

Councilman Thomas Crowder also expressed concerns about noise for nearby neighborhoods. That will be studied in the preliminary design plan.

The property, bounded by McDowell, Cabarrus, Dawson and Lenoir streets, was used to store equipment and supplies for the convention center construction.



Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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