Convention center funding plan outlined

Albany Convention Center Authority Chairman George Leveille on Monday outlined an alternative financ

Albany Convention Center Authority Chairman George Leveille on Monday outlined an alternative financing solution for the planned $397.5 million convention center in Albany: instead of the state paying an additional $192 million in cash, it could spread the financing over a 30-year period.

Leveille said state budget officials warned the authority that there might not be enough money in this year’s budget for an appropriation to build the long-planned complex. He said authority officials have prepared different finance plans to make the project work.

“We didn’t cultivate 15 different options. Think of it as the original plan of finance is at one end of the continuum and at the other side of that is a straight lease and there are 1,000 different alternatives in between. That’s the range of possibilities,” Leveille said. “[The lease] scenario would say the state doesn’t have to put any more dollars into it today, in fact doesn’t have put any more dollars in until 2010 or 2011.”

The state budget passed last week included the reappropriation of a $75 million grant from the Empire State Development Corp. to the Albany Convention Center Authority. So far $2 million of the grant has been spent for planning purposes. The budget left a $192 million gap in the financing. The gap is expected to grow larger by approximately $40,000 each day — because of skyrocketing construction costs — if the project is not authorized by June, according to Albany Convention Center Authority officials.

Leveille said a lease payment plan has some advantages over the up-front payment financing plan the Albany Convention Center Authority has submitted to state officials.

The Albany Convention Center Authority does not have the power to authorize the convention center project. Before the project can begin, the governor and the state Legislature must sign off on a financing plan.

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