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Bucs Arena at Merle Hay Mall Still on Target for 2023-2024 Open

September 21, 2022 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Des Moines Buccaneers News Release

URBANDALE, Iowa - Economic jitters, rising interest rates and persistent inflation have slowed the Des Moines Buccaneers' ability to finalize private financing but the conversion of space in Merle Hay Mall into the hockey team's new arena remain on track for completion during the 2023-24 season, co-owner Michael Devlin said today.

"As others who have attempted to launch major construction projects in the past few years have seen, the pandemic and its aftermath have created a perfect storm of conditions that have created strong headwinds. Our efforts have been complicated by the 2020 derecho that damaged our current facility and the need to balance our current ongoing maintenance needs with the construction of the new arena," Devlin said. "It's akin to having one foot on the dock and the other in the boat for a brief moment but we'll get where we need to be, and the Buccaneers will have a better future and be a better team for it."

The 3,500-seat arena, which involves renovation of the former Younkers and current Kohl's department stores, will have an estimated $126 million annual economic impact and create approximately 1,000 new jobs. The construction phase alone is estimated to create 130 construction jobs and generate an estimated $140 million in new spending at the arena, training center, and mall campus.

Total private investment in the project is slated to be $120 million, which would be paired with $26.5 million from the Iowa Reinvestment District Act Fund. Curtis Brown, assistant city manager and director of economic development for the City of Urbandale, recently provided an update to Iowa Economic Development Authority officials and requested an adjustment to the project's financing schedule. That request may be on the IEDA board's Friday meeting agenda.

The request seeks to delay the financing deadline for the arena by six months to Dec. 31, 2022 and delay the financing deadline for the Buccaneers Training Center to Dec. 31, 2023. Likewise, the date for documenting the selection of a developer and construction financing for the Merle Hay Tower will also be delayed.

Brown, who serves as chair of the Merle Hay Joint 28E Board noted in the request to the IEDA to extend the timeline to submit financial commitments: "We are optimistic about all the district projects and look forward to finalizing financing plans and beginning construction for each individual project."

Merle Hay Mall straddles the city boundaries of Des Moines and Urbandale. While the arena will be located within the Urbandale city limits, the project will also include infrastructure improvements and other mall investments in both communities, which resulted in the creation of the 28E board, which is named after the Iowa Code chapter that allows for multi-jurisdictional agreements.

Liz Holland, chief executive officer of Merle Hay Investors, noted that the construction of a new Kohl's store facing Merle Hay Road is on schedule, which will allow demolition and construction crews to begin work in the current Kohl's structure as planned.

"We have all experienced longer completion times on the financing front and are happy the project's opening will not be delayed by the extension of time to complete certain financing," Holland said. " With Kohl's opening this fall and more exciting stores, including Kid's Empire and others, plus new restaurants joining the mall line-up this fall and next spring, Merle Hay will be a new place when the Bucs Arena opens."

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