Portales officials split on funding for proposed entertainment center

Freedom New Mexico: Alisa Boswell Portales city officials have made repeated attempts to revive the movie theater in Portales, which closed in 2009, with no success, according to Greg Fisher, executive director of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corp. Some city councilors are now seeking to bring a “Fun Center” to Portales.

Alisa Boswell

City officials agree an entertainment center would be a positive thing for Portales. Opinions are split on how to fund such a project.

Councilor Keith Thomas, who pitched the idea to the city council, proposes it could be funded by a tax hike or bond. Mayor Sharon King believes it should be privately funded.

Both agree the taxpayer-funded option should be decided by voters.

“I don’t think the city should fund it, because we have so many other needs that are more critical, such as our water problem, and that truly is a responsibility of our city,” King said. “I just feel like there’s more important things our public funding should be used for. If we were a community with more money, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but we’re not.”

King said she believes that if it is necessary, the city should just bring one entertainment venue at a time to the community rather than trying to bring several at once.

City officials have attempted to revive the old theater in Portales numerous times without success.

Thomas envisions a center that would include a movie theater, bowling alley, arcade and laser tag.

“Most of what I’m hearing is this would be a great place for family to go to for quality time,” Thomas said. “People I’ve talked to seem excited. It’s just amazing the positive responses I’ve seen to this.”

Thomas said he believes Portales residents should know all of the options available to the city to pay for such a project.

“We can raise our taxes one quarter percent and fund the entire operation,” Thomas said. “Some of the options we have available are changing the ordinance for LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) money to make sure it’s available. There’s also the possibility of going out for a bond.”

LEDA is a local option fund designed to support economic development in the city limits, according to Roosevelt County Community Development Corp. Executive Director Greg Fisher, who said at this time the fund does not support family entertainment venues.

Portales city officials are exploring a change to the ordinance to include family entertainment, but LEDA would only cover a small part of the cost of an entertainment complex, which Fisher estimates could cost $3 million to $6 million, depending on the size of the center.

“It really depends on whether you can service the debt or not. If you spend $3 million and you’re able to get $1 million in donations, that makes a big difference,” Fisher said. “The city of Portales has done a great job in using the LEDA fund for economic development. I’m meeting with state finance officials to explore help from them as well. It’s definitely possible, if we can overcome all the obstacles and pull together.”

Thomas said since other city projects and concerns are funded by the city’s annual budget, he does not see the problem with funding this project with tax money.

“I know we face things in our community,” Thomas said. “I really think we’re looking at doing the right thing here. Water is vital to this community but so are people. This is something we need to improve the quality of life for our citizens.”