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Meeting to provide more info on project

Dustin Trice doesn't think voters are getting all of the information they need before voting to support a downtown arena and event center.

"I think there's a lot of smoke and mirrors in this project," said Trice, a political science major at North Dakota State University.

Trice is organizing an informational meeting from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday for citizens to ask questions and get answers regarding the Renaissance Center. The meeting is at 74 Broadway, the former Democratic campaign headquarters.

Trice said the issue "exploded" for him this past week when city commissioners set May 3 as the special election date.

Voters will be asked to approve a 3Ý-year extension of the half-cent Fargodome sales tax to pay for the $40 million event center

If the public arena is approved, Cityscapes Development will build a $60 million, privately funded office, retail and condominium complex on the same downtown block, bound by First Avenue North, NP Avenue, Broadway and Roberts Street.

"The reason I think it's exploded so much this last week was the fact that they rushed the petition and the vote," Trice said.

"I don't see why this had to go from conceptual phase with no information to a vote with hardly any information being presented."

Trice acknowledges he hasn't attended an informational meeting by supporters of the project. However, he's kept track of the proposal through the group's Web site and the media.

Trice is concerned about creating parking problems and destroying history downtown. But most of all, he's concerned about the businesses on the block in question.

Trice worked on the block while assisting Rep. Earl Pomeroy's re-election campaign this past election.

"For me, it was a situation where I saw a bunch of businesses not getting the facts and about to be getting taken advantage of big time," Trice said.

The Tuesday meeting is a chance for the businesses to hear the facts of the proposal, he said. Project supporters, city commissioners and the public are invited to attend.

Trice also would like to see a feasibility study to show if a facility is needed and where it should go.

"If I can even get one new answer after Tuesday & that's what I'm here for. Just to build a better understanding of why this project is needed & or to come up with reasons why it's not needed," he said.

Brad Wimmer, chairman of the citizen's arena committee, was reached in the Twin Cities Friday afternoon. He said he's aware of the opposition to the event center.

"To be in opposition is fine, but what we would like better is to have people help us come up with solutions & how can we make it a win-win for them and for the project to go forward?" Wimmer said.

About one-third of the block in question is inhabited, the other two-thirds vacant, he said. The people directly affected would be fairly compensated if the area is razed.

"We're trying to make this work for the people of Fargo," he said. "If the project doesn't go through & it's Joe citizen in Fargo that's going to be losing out."

Wimmer was in St. Paul on Friday to watch the Moorhead Spuds play hockey. However, he also met with the Saint Paul Riverfront Corp. to discuss what the Xcel Energy Center has done for the city.

"We're under the premise that as a citizen of Fargo, you believe that a strong downtown makes for a strong city," Wimmer said.

Wimmer plans to attend Tuesday's informational meeting to answer any questions and clear up any miscommunication.

"We're not trying to offend anybody. Our phone lines have been open. Anybody that's not been communicated with could have called," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5557