Wesbanco Arena clearly is in need of improvements, so Wheeling officials are right to be planning to make them. But they should do so as economically as possible, without regard to a potential future project that is not such an obviously good idea.
City officials revealed plans for arena improvements this week, going along with proposals that have been discussed for many months.
Under consideration is a multi-faceted program with a price tag in excess of $4 million. It would involve construction of a much-needed new entrance for the arena, replacement of old seating, electronic enhancements including a new video board, and upgrades to concession areas and restrooms. It is a very ambitious plan - one we hope can be completed with the more than $4 million earmarked for it.
It is expected revenue from the city's new 0.5-percent sales tax will be adequate to make payments on bonds to be sold to finance the project. On Tuesday, City Manager Robert Herron outlined three potential schedules for bond financing.
Ten-year, 15-year and 20-year repayment plans are under consideration. As Herron explained, paying off the bonds in 10 years would cost the city about $468,000 annually. The 15-year schedule would cost $371,000 annually, while the 20-year plan would require $312,000 a year.
To some city officials, one potential appeal of the 20-year plan is it conserves some cash from tax revenue for another project that has been discussed - construction of convention facilities at or near WesBanco Arena.
But extending payments over 20 years, with accompanying higher interest charges, would cost Wheeling taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million more than the 10-year plan. That should make the decision clear.
Spending $1.5 million more than necessary on bond payments does not seem wise - again, especially if locking the city into that scheme merely to conserve cash for a convention facility that may or may not be built is the justification.
City Council members should approve the 10-year repayment schedule to save taxpayers money in the long run.