The Tucson Convention Center is so run down interim City Manager Richard Miranda says the city needs to at least replace the bleachers, or shut it down for safety's sake - a step he says the city should try to avoid.
Miranda told the City Council that the bleachers are so deteriorated they could harm the public or the staff at the facility. He estimated the replacement cost at about $800,000.
Parks Director Fred Gray said in a memo to Miranda at the start of the year that the 27-year-old bleachers were unsafe and fail to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Many parts are no longer available for repairs, Gray noted, adding that ticket sales are being affected, with some sections not usable.
Miranda said waiting any longer will force the issue of closing the facility, because the bleachers will be so bad in the coming months, and shows that need them won't be able to come.
"That's totally unacceptable. The TCC has a number of events that are important to the community, and we need to make sure we do all we can to make sure they continue to happen," he said.
Miranda said he has directed procurement to start the process to replace the bleachers and has told his finance staff to develop funding options. He said he anticipates tapping into $2.4 million that had been set aside to fund streetcar debt service, if need be. Since that fund won't be necessary in 2013, that money could be used as a one-time expenditure on other items.
Complicating matters, he noted, is that the city is currently embroiled in negotiations with the Rio Nuevo district board. They are trying to hammer out a number of issues, including upkeep and maintenance of the facility to avoid having to go to court.
"It is not clear when this process will conclude or what the outcome will be, and unfortunately a decision on the replacement of the bleachers can no longer wait," Miranda said, adding that the council is going to have to take a leadership role to resolve it.
Jodi Bain, the chairwoman of the Rio Nuevo board, said it's not accurate to pin the bleacher problem on the impasse in which the Rio Nuevo board and the city have found themselves. The district has always contended maintenance and upkeep were the responsibility of the city.
At any rate, Bain said it's possible the city and the district, even as they continue negotiating over the larger issues, will break out the easier ones and resolve them more quickly. She could not say more because the mediation meetings are secret.
But even once the bleacher question is resolved, she said, there's a bigger focus at hand, given that the city's general fund subsidized the TCC last year by roughly $2.1 million.
Bain said there needs to be a thorough review of the management and operations of the facility. "You don't want to pour money into something to keep it humming along at a negative," she said. "You may have to make some structural changes rather than keep throwing good money after bad."
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at email@example.com or 573-4243.