Noblesville OKs $630K contracts with economic consultants for arena study


Noblesville has approved contracts totaling $630,000 with two consulting firms to represent the city and to perform an economic impact and feasibility analysis tied to the construction and development of an arena on the city’s east side in partnership with Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

The Noblesville Board of Works and Safety approved an agreement June 13 with Indianapolis-based CHA Consulting, Inc. for $486,000 to represent the city in the partnership with Pacers Sports & Entertainment to construct and operate a 3,400-seat arena at Finch Creek Park, where the Pacers’ G League team, the Mad Ants, will play in the 2024-25 season.

Under the 22-month contract with CHA Consulting, Inc., the firm will represent the city and has worked on similar projects like the one planned in Noblesville with cities across the county, said Andrew Murray, economic development director for the city. Murray said CHA Consulting, Inc., will guide the city through the pre-construction and construction phases while ensuring the project is completed on schedule.

“It’s always good to bring someone in who’s an expert in that field,” Murray said. “CHA had experience in sports facilities that we felt was important to us.”

In May, the city and Pacers Sports & Entertainment announced a partnership that will result in an 85,000-square-foot arena being developed in which the city will commit $36.5 million toward the project. The Mad Ants will relocate to Noblesville from Fort Wayne as part of the plan.

The Noblesville Board of Works and Safety also approved a second consulting contract tied to the project with Chicago-based Hunden Partners for $144,000 to conduct an economic impact and feasibility analysis on behalf of the city. Noblesville will pay for the contract costs with CHA Consulting, Inc., and Hunden Partners totaling $630,000 through unrestricted funds within the city’s Corporate Campus East TIF District.

The city will then reimburse the TIF out of bond proceeds once the project bond is issued, officials said.

Matt Light, deputy mayor for the city, said Hunden Partners is engaged with Hamilton County Tourism to develop a 10-year comprehensive tourism master plan and action plan for the county, which includes the Business of Entertainment and Sports Tourism, or BEST, study. The study, he said, “analyzes existing assets and amenities within the county and identifies gaps and opportunities for future investment that could create additional economic activity and benefit for the community.”

Light said the city selected Hunden Partners based on their experience on other projects elsewhere, including Grand Park in Westfield and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. Under the contract approved by the city, Hunden Partners will perform its economic impact and feasibility analysis for Noblesville that is expected to take about two months to complete, Light said.

“Anytime that a city makes an investment like this magnitude, we want to have a really good sense of what’s the return on the investment for the taxpayer and what direct economic impact it will have,” Light said.

As part of Hunden’s work, Light said the firm will not only look at how many jobs will be created as a result of construction, but also what type of economic activity can be anticipated. Hunden’s work is expected to take about two months to complete, which will help determine key decisions regarding the design of the facility, according to Light.

A report will eventually be delivered to Mayor Chris Jensen, who will then brief the Noblesville Common Council on the firm’s work, Light said.

“We believe this analysis will significantly enhance our decision-making on the project as it relates to arena/event center design, project budgets, flexible use of the facility for days when not in use by the G League, surrounding and complementary uses and funding strategies,” Light said.

Under a 10-year partnership agreement between the city and Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the city will be responsible for issuing bonds to finance the design and construction of the facility. The Pacers will rent the event center for 10 years with a one 10-year option with average rent averaging $500,000 annually over the 10-year term, according to the agreement.

The new arena is anticipated to open during the 2024-25 season, and the Mad Ants would play at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the interim, officials said.