The theater was the essential anchor for downtown redevelopment, he said. But private investors were balking because Regal Cinemas was promising to run the theater for only five years. After that, there was no guaranteed revenue stream, making the 40-year bonds too risky at their 5 percent annual return.
“Literally, the whole thing was contingent on people buying the bonds and nobody else would and I said we will be the buyer of last resort.”
If nobody would invest, shouldn't the deal die? “Well, you know, economically, probably,” Haslam replies. “But I thought the downtown movie theater was critical to the success of downtown renovation, and most of the people who were involved in downtown redevelopment would tell you the same thing. So it was just something that I did, we did, for the good of the community.”
“We had people who were looking at doing everything from opening new retail stores to restaurants, all of whom were saying it’s contingent upon getting that movie theater built. There are a lot of things that are done in cities and counties and communities that don’t necessarily make economic sense that are good for the community.”
Will Haslam’s explanation wash with voters? It sounds good to us. He stands to double his $2 million investment in the theater, but it’ll take 40 years to do it. If Haslam hoped to personally profit from his public office, as Wamp suggests, it was a poor scheme.
Update: Spontaneously, without any urging from the Haslam campaign, Knox Chamber Partnership President Mike Edwards has just issued a statement defending his mayor. As a courtesy, the Haslam campaign provided Edwards' thoughts to the media.
"Downtown business owners and Knoxville citizens are incredibly appreciative of the Mayor's leadership and for all that he and his family have done for our community over the years. This appears to be an unfortunate political attack that attempts to stretch the truth."