Rio Nuevo took the first, formal steps Monday toward fixing up the dilapidated Tucson Convention Center.

For the past few months, the board has bounced around ideas about what, or what not to repair at the TCC. The talk has touched on seats, scoreboards, restrooms and other features. But before reaching a final decision, the board first wants to see how it can get the most bang for its buck. All $6 million of it.

To get things rolling, the board is turning to some outside help for guidance, unanimously approving $204,278 in consultant fees.

Most of that amount is slated for architectural fees. The district will pay Phil Swaim, of Swaim Associates, up to $150,000 for design costs for improvements, which includes $51,348 Swaim already has anticipated will be needed for pre-design costs.

The board also will pay an outside company $49,518 for a three-dimensional scan of the TCC arena and adjacent restrooms.

Project manager Elaine Weaver said the existing TCC documents are all two-dimensional, and none of the them is 100 percent accurate. The three-dimensional scan would provide the architect, and anyone else, a digital model to seamlessly adjust various design scenarios and give a clearer picture of the TCC's layout.

A smaller $4,760 contract was awarded to a third party for cost estimates.

Because the amount exceeds the $50,000 limit, the city will have to approve the measure before it can officially move forward.

Chairman Fletcher McCusker said the information gleaned from the consultants will allow the board to prioritize its contribution to the project so the money's not spent in vain.

"Clean" Audit released

The district also issued its first "clean" audit since the state took over Rio Nuevo in 2010.

Previous audits had to be qualified because the district was in an ongoing dispute with the city over who owned what.

Now that the two sides have resolved their issues, the questioned properties and disputed money can be placed within some context inside the audit.

McCusker called the audit a "huge benchmark" for the board.

"We worked on it for months," McCusker said. "As soon as I got here, I recognized the district had an accounting problem … and no government, especially one that issues bond debt, wants to have qualified opinions."

The audit also underscores how the board is moving in the right direction from years past, he said.

"We've got a clean audit. We've got a good base from which to move forward," McCusker said. "This has no politics. This is just accounting."

Not everyone was pleased with the audit. Board member Alberto Moore voted against accepting it, saying it glossed over too much of the city's ignominious past management.

"We spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to identify all of these different problems. And there's been a lot of problems and a lot of misinformation," Moore said. "I'm not sure (the audit) covered all of that thoroughly. I think the new board hasn't shown a lot of interest in … (confirming) or discussing some of the history and so forth. And that's always bothered me."

Arena property

The board tentatively approved taking over from the city the downtown property near Cushing Street and Granada Avenue where an arena was once planned. Before it makes any final decision, it wants to further investigate the property's history.

Initial reviews didn't uncover any archaeological or environmental concerns with the current site of the Greyhound Bus Depot.

But there was a $1.9 million claim filed against the parcel by Peach Properties over what it asserted was the city reneging on a deal that originally awarded the land to the company, McCusker said. McCusker said they would engage Peach Properties about a possible settlement.

If Rio Nuevo does eventually take the property and wants Greyhound to relocate, the district must give Greyhound one year's notice, and the city will be on the hook for relocation costs.

On StarNet: View an interactive timeline of the Rio Nuevo project at

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or