DALLAS — After years of debate and controversy, the city council for the Dallas suburb of Irving on Friday approved building a $166 million entertainment center next to the city's new convention center.
The 5-4 vote came after midnight Friday following hours of debate Thursday night.
The deal calls for the city to provide $84 million to the ARK Group for the project that will include a concert hall and dining facilities in the Las Colinas neighborhood.
A previous partnership to build the center collapsed amid political rancor, leaving the city's triple-A ratings in danger. The previous Las Colinas Group, led by nightclub owner Billy Bob Barnett, received more than $21 million from the city before dealings ended last year.
Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who defeated Mayor Herbert Gears in 2011 with a campaign based largely on opposition to the project, spoke out against allowing the ARK group to run the entertainment center for 99 years.
"We're going to be cannibalizing the businesses private development is paying to put in the urban center," Van Duyne told the council, per the Dallas Morning News. "We are doing our citizens and our city, for 99 years, an incredible disservice."
Council member Joe Putnam, a former opponent of the project, said he now supports the plan, calling it "probably as good as the city can do."
Standard & Poor's has Irving's triple-A rating on negative outlook based on its plans to build the entertainment center.
"We believe that the city's pursuit of, and work with, developers to finance projects such as the entertainment center has the potential to hamstring its flexibility to address other future capital and budgetary needs," wrote S&P analyst Sarah Smaardyk in the June 27 report. "It also represents a change in the city's approach to managing its debt and liability profile."
Moody's Investors Service maintained its stable outlook on the triple-A rating in June.
With a population of 221,000, Irving has about $356 million of bonds outstanding, creating what S&P considers a "moderately high" debt burden representing 8.3% of the tax base and $6,537 per capita.