By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead announced on Tuesday plans to establish an entertainment district with 1 million square feet of retail, restaurant and office space, all centered around an events center that could bring a minor league ice hockey team here.
Craighead detailed plans for the entertainment district during yesterdays meeting of the Rotary Club. A formal announcement will be made today at 11 a.m. at the Roxy Theater.
The main portion of the proposed district consists of 165 acres of Mixed-Use Development land from Highway 231/South Cumberland Street in the west, the James E. Ward Agricultural Center to the east and including Baird Park in the north.
A 1-mile stretch of the district will be visible along Interstate 40 from the Hwy. 231 South exit down to Cainsville Road.
The district is proposed to contain 1 million square feet of retail space, which would make it the largest retail development between Nashville and Knoxville. By comparison, Providence MarketPlace in Mt. Juliet contains 850,000 square feet of retail space and The Avenues in Murfreesboro contains 811,000 square feet.
The events center would be located amid the retail space and be a 4,500 seat center with an attached convention floor space to hold a variety of events.
Vastland Realty of Nashville, a developer that has constructed many residential and retail spaces, is planning to develop the land with several tenants already committed.
Plans for the district have been in the works since last year, according to Craighead, who said it will give Lebanon and Wilson County a new competitive edge by adding revenue from sales tax collections, new businesses, jobs and a destination center for tourism.
Craighead noted that he has been planning and discussing the district with Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto during the whole process.
This is something that Mayor Hutto and I are in support of, but to achieve certain goals, it needs the backing and commitment of the community, Craighead said.
A deal is also in the works with the Nashville Predators to possibly move a minor league hockey team from the Central Hockey League to Lebanon and into the 4,500 seat events center.
We have a commitment from a Central Hockey League team to place a team here, Craighead said.
The Central Hockey League is a small minor league made up of 14 teams in states such as Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Arizona and more. The largest capacity venue for a CHL team is in Tulsa, Okla., and contains 17,000 seats. The smallest venue is in Prescott Valley, Ariz., and contains 4,800 seats.
Sources involved in planning the entertainment district indicated the Predators have not signed an agreement as of yet, but are expected to do so.
Craighead noted that several local schools have ice hockey teams, and the ice skating rinks in Franklin and Nashville are very popular and where these teams go to practice and play their games. The ice rinks in the events center would allow ice skating and local school hockey teams to practice and play games in town.
Hockey and ice skating have become a part of our culture, Craighead noted.
Also, he pointed out the events center would be a great place for concerts, other sporting events, graduations, proms, circuses and much more. Craighead indicated he had talked with country music singer Trace Adkins about the events center and said Adkins is enthusiastic about it and thinks other entertainers will be as well.
This is the size of venue that entertainers really enjoy, Craighead said.
The Cumberland Center, as it is known, will be located on 20 acres of land that is to be donated by the property owners to allow a joint venture between Lebanon and Wilson County governments to construct the center.
A facility of this type would be beneficial to our county as a whole by allowing our community to host events that are currently being lost to other counties due to space restrictions and other limiting factors, Craighead said.
Craighead noted the events center would cost $40 million or $2.8 million per year and would be paid for through sales and property tax collections within the district. He said the development would move forward in phases.
Were not building it and hoping we can pay for it, he said. So many people want to build it and hope they come, thats not me.
While the hockey team and Cumberland Center will be the focal point of the entertainment district, Craighead said the district will be full of retail stores and restaurants that will generate more jobs and revenue for the city.
Phase I of the district would begin with an entrance between Pizza Hut and Arbys on Hwy. 231/South Cumberland Street and would contain 200,000 square feet of retail space. Craighead said tenants have already committed to fill 20,000 square feet.
There are bulldozers on-site ready to start building the roads, he said.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors Note: For more information, see the Wednesday, Oct. 5, print edition of The Wilson Post.