Tax increment financing may pave the way to a new 6 thousand seat arena and convention center in Owensboro. Tuesday night, the City Commission voted in favor of pursing a plan to build a new complex at Highway 54 and the US 60 bypass conceived of by a development group called Gulfstream. That facility would include apartments, condos and shopping centers. The Gulfstream proposal is the most viable the city has seen, according to Commissioners. By giving the measure a yes vote, the city enters a deal with Gulfstream to create a special tax district on the property on Owensboros east side. If approved by the state, a percentage of the sales tax generated on the property would be returned to the city to pay off bond debt generated by the construction of the mixed use entertainment district. The Kentucky General Assembly still has to sign off on the plan. It made the possibility of a $200 million tax increment finance district available as a way to spark development across the state. Lawmakers approved the same kind of funding mechanism for $1.5 billion in projects in Louisville and northern Kentucky near Cincinnati. Now, smaller communities have a chance to share in the wealth, but only until December 31st. Thats the cutoff date for applying for the tax increment finance plan. Its also why the Owensboro City Commission and Mayor Tom Watson say they decided to back the Gulfstream project, despite the lack of public input. "This is our chance for Owensboro to think big, build big, and be big," said Commissioner Al Mattingly. He joined fellow commissioners and the Mayor in lamenting that a better plan for a downtown arena and convention center had not emerged. Owensboro is in the midst of a multi-million dollar downtown redevelopment effort centered along the Ohio River. Frustrated opponents think the city is moving too fast, and promoting urban sprawl. Rodney Berry spoke at the City Commission meeting cautioning against entering into the Gulfstream contract in haste. He said the decision on where to put an arena is "something that will shape the ... the growth and the distinctiveness of the city for decades." The state still has to sign off on the funding package, and that is far from guaranteed. A formal proposal is expected to be sent to Frankfort later this July.