Long wish list for upgrades at WesBanco Arena

WHEELING – Brand new video boards, an outdoor marquee, spectator suites and a players’ lounge are just a few of the items on Wheeling officials’ wish list for WesBanco Arena, according to the city’s call for qualified architects to design improvements to the 36-year-old downtown venue.

The city would generate revenue for the arena renovation project through a bond sale and repay that debt with proceeds from Wheeling’s new municipal sales tax that went into effect Oct. 1.

Project objectives listed in the request for qualifications also include a new metal roof, building facade and lobby; replacing seats; upgrading concession stands, restrooms, meeting rooms and locker rooms and installing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the lobby and outer concourse.

It’s unclear what the project will cost, though Mayor Andy McKenzie previously said the city hoped to complete “up to $4 million” worth of upgrades at the arena when he announced the plan to enact the sales tax earlier this year. There’s also no cost estimate yet on the design work as state law concerning the procurement of professional services requires city leaders to select the most qualified firm before negotiating price.

A possible second phase of the city’s plan includes developing hotel and convention space on property surrounding the arena. The city will issue a separate RFQ to design that project in the next month or two, City Manager Robert Herron said.

While seeking a variance for his Woodsdale facility during a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Thursday, Hampton Inn owner Robert Hitchman referenced the city’s plan in describing increased competition he’s facing. Herron declined to comment on that, saying only that the city is not looking to get into the hospitality business.

“Any hotel or restaurant would absolutely be privately owned and operated. Anything other than convention space will absolutely be private,” he said of potential future development around WesBanco Arena.

Herron said Wheeling City Council will select a design firm for arena renovations by the end of the year if all goes according to schedule, but noted the city wouldn’t enter into a contract for design services until at least January. That’s when Wheeling is set to receive its first payment of sales tax revenue from the state.

Officials also want to see at least six months’ worth of revenue history before settling on the final scope of the project, he said.

Herron said five firms responded to the RFQ: McKinley and Associates of Wheeling, working in conjunction with Sink Combs Dethlef of Denver, Colo.; Matyskiela & Grant Inc. of Wheeling, working with MSA Architects of Cincinnati; Kayafas Architects of Wheeling; DLA Architecture & Interior Design of Pittsburgh; and a group of five firms including Astorino Architecture and Dagostino Electronic Services of Pittsburgh, ACA Engineering Inc. of Boardman, Ohio, and SMG Architects and Cerrone Associates, both of Wheeling.

Wheeling’s sales tax is expected to generate $2.4 million annually, based on an estimated $532 million in yearly sales subject to the tax and taking into account the fee the state will charge to administer the tax. Coupled with an anticipated $1 million reduction in annual Business and Occupation Tax revenue resulting from changes set to go into effect in April, the city expects to see a $1.4 million bump in overall yearly revenue – half of which would be set aside to pay for the arena upgrades.