Tuesday October 9, 2012

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Sports Center at the former Catamount Elementary School is one of 30 projects across the state to receive a portion of $1.78 million in tax credits through the Downtown Program, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Monday.

The sports center project, which has been in the works since Bo Vuckovic purchased the building last fall, received $58,170 to help fund the installation of a new sprinkler system, rehabilitate the building’s elevator and bring the building up to other codes.

"We are very grateful to receive it," Vuckovic said. "It will definitely help speed up the process."

First floor renovations include the indoor soccer field -- being built in the former school gymnasium -- as well as locker rooms, office space, a lounge and café that could all be open by early November.

Long range plans also include dormitories, retail space and other renovations on the second and third floors, although Vuckovic will not put a timeline on those projects until the first floor renovations are complete and he is able to assess how popular the facility is.

"We’re taking it one step at a time," he said.

Vuckovic said the entire building needs various upgrades to meet codes that are expected to total almost $700,000. In addition to the elevator and sprinkler upgrades, there is also significant electrical, plumbing and heating upgrades that must be completed.

In addition to traditional tax credits for building investment and revitalization in the state’s community centers, $500,000 in flood credits were allocated to help repair and rehabilitate buildings damaged by the spring and fall flooding in 2011.

The tax credits competitively awarded for 30 projects in 17 communities by the Downtown Development Board will help support nearly $26 million in building improvements. The Bennington Sports Center is the only project in Bennington County to receive the credits.

The tax credit program is one of the benefits of Downtown and Village Center designations and makes it easier to revitalize hard to finance projects in community centers across the state.

Other projects that received tax credits this year include the reconstruction of the Brooks House in Brattleboro that was ravaged by fire last April, rebuilding Dot’s in Wilmington after it was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene last fall, and rehabilitation projects for 14 flood-impacted businesses in Barre, Quechee, St. Johnsbury, Waterbury and Wilmington.

"The downtown tax credit program is a proven tool that stimulates much-needed local economic activity and job creation across Vermont," Shumlin said in a release to media. "By adding flood credits to target communities particularly affected by Irene to the very successful state tax credit program, we have been able to contribute to the recovery of vital downtown businesses around the state, while promoting new growth and investment."

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi.