Residents talked. The planners listened.

Changes have been made to the proposal for the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center since it was unveiled in June.

One addresses traffic flow, which was a main concern of the residents of nearby Hawthorne Hills and Willow Manor.

No traffic for the venue will go down Hawthorne Drive, Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission member Barry Herring told the Brown County Commissioners on Nov. 1.

All venue traffic will be routed onto Maple Leaf Boulevard, a new, three-lane road to go to the east of the Salt Creek Inn and the Salt Creek Plaza building where the Family Dollar is, roughly along the fence row with Snyder Farm. That road originally had been envisioned as an alternate exit to the venue but will now be the only full-time access road to it.

A gated emergency entrance/exit also has been added, connecting to the YMCA parking lot off Willow Street.

new maple leaf map

Another firmed-up part of the plan is the financing.

Herring said he talked with the State Bank of Lizton about financing the project with a traditional loan rather than a bond. This arrangement would not require the county to spend or put up any county tax money as collateral — except for possibly the innkeepers tax, which is paid by hotel guests, he said.

With a bond, a portion of the county’s economic development income taxes had to be put up as a guarantee, and the county would not take on that burden.

“Council tasked this group with finding a funding solution that did not involve property tax or income tax,” county commissioner Diana Biddle said.

With the loan, the bank requires only the innkeepers tax and the mortgage as collateral, Herring said.

“There’s nothing beyond the innkeepers tax from a county standpoint that could ever be negatively impacted by the loan,” he said.

“Again, we will not come to the county and ask you to back this up in any way if we can’t pay for it. … This bank is saying, ‘We are so comfortable with volume of money (innkeepers tax) coming in the CVC (convention and visitors commission), and so comfortable with this venue, that that is the only guarantee we’ll require. And I’ve worked with this bank many times before.”

The maximum amount to be borrowed for this project would be $12.5 mil- lion. A nearly $900,000 contingency budget is included for unforeseen costs; and with other numbers, Herring estimated high on costs and low on income, he said.

When it was proposed in June, the estimate to build it had been $10.2 million.

The price of some materials has gone up in the past few months because of rebuilding demand from hurricanes and wildfires, Herring said.

Through a special arrangement with the bank, the annual mortgage payment would be $559,000 until 2023, when it would go up to $733,000. The lower initial payments would give time for the Maple Leaf time to establish itself in the entertainment community, he said.

Income from the venue will be used to pay back the loan. The innkeepers tax might not have to be used at all, Herring said.

He’s proposing that extra fees be added onto ticket prices as many venues do, including a $3 “facilities fee” instead of charging for parking, and a $1 entertainment tax which would need to be established by the state legislature.

Those fees would raise about $330,000, based on 82,533 ticket sales at an average of $28.48 per ticket, he said. That money would help to pay the mortgage, as his calculations show the venue making $341,422 after operating expenses, before the mortgage is paid.

Organizers predict that building this venue will cause an increase in innkeepers tax collections, which have already been growing between 1 percent and 6.5 percent every year since 2007, except for 2011. The innkeepers tax is a 5-percent tax charged on overnight room rentals in the county.

If the new per-ticket fees don’t go into effect, Herring projected the Maple Leaf would still be able to pay its mortgage by supplementing its revenue with innkeepers tax, without affecting the budget of the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB also uses innkeepers tax money to run the downtown Visitors Center and market Brown County.

To do that, innkeepers tax collections would need to rise by 20 percent between 2018 and 2019.

Venue profits could be reinvested into the community through the Brown County Community Foundation, Herring said.

The financial projections are based on Herring’s 40 years working on and arranging financing for $500 million worth of commercial real estate projects, and on talking with people involved in other similar-sized entertainment venues, he said.

“The last thing we want to do is embark on this project and run out of money,” Herring said.

He said he’s “never seen numbers this good” in pricing out the feasibility of a project.

“I will stake my reputation on it,” he said. “I wish I was doing this personally.”


Traffic changes

The Maple Leaf is still planned to go on 13.75 acres owned by Chuck Snyder, behind Brown County Health & Living Community and near the banks of Salt Creek.

Nashville government recently was awarded state Community Crossings grant money to expand Hawthorne Drive to three lanes and build sidewalks, in anticipation of the Maple Leaf being put south of where Hawthorne ends now at Willow Street.

To extend Hawthorne all the way to the venue, the Nashville Police Station would have had to be demolished and put somewhere else. With this new plan, the police station will stay where it is, Herring said.

Hawthorne Drive will still be widened to three lanes with sidewalks. However, no Maple Leaf traffic will be going down it. “They will be getting all of the benefits without the negative effect of any extra traffic,” architect Doug Harden said of residents in that area.

Harden said an official with the Indiana Department of Transportation visited the Hawthorne Drive area recently and was “shocked” at how densely it’s been developed, because all those buildings don’t show up on Google Maps. The INDOT official recommended that all traffic to the new venue use Maple Leaf Boulevard because of the amount of traffic already on Hawthorne, Harden said.

For drivers heading toward Columbus, the existing far-right lane of State Road 46 would become a right-turn-only lane to get to the Maple Leaf, instead of being the “drag-race” lane for people speeding up after the light to get around slower drivers in the left lane, Harden said.

For traffic on 46 coming from Columbus, there would be two left-turn-only lanes, one going to the Maple Leaf and one to Hawthorne Drive a little further west, Harden said.

No new light would be added on 46; officers would provide “manual traffic control” at Maple Leaf Boulevard when needed, Biddle said.

To further define the traffic pattern, INDOT recommended putting up concrete curbs to separate the eastbound and westbound lanes on State Road 46 in the area of Hawthorne Drive and Snyder Road, Harden said.

Those curbs also would help prevent people from cutting through the Salt Creek Inn parking lot to get to the Family Dollar and other businesses, he said.

The state is already planning to do some road work on State Road 46 next year, so the state will take care of the striping and lane realignment, Biddle said.

Building the new entrance road, Maple Leaf Boulevard, will come out of the budget for the music venue, Herring said.

Paul Navarro, the lone member of the Brown County Area Plan Commission who voted against rezoning land for this project, said he was pleased with the changes to the traffic pattern and the operating budget.

County commissioner Dave Anderson, who said he’d been skeptical about the project, told Herring he was “on board” now.

Where and when

Herring said the goal is to close on the Snyder property purchase by mid-December.

The plan had been to break ground and set footers before the ground freezes, but freezing temperatures have come earlier than expected.

The project will take about 13 months to build, he said. As long as ground can be broken and kept moving before a hard frost, work can continue through the winter, he said. But if that can’t happen, and/or the spring is muddy, that timeline will have to be pushed back.

Best-case scenario, the venue opens in February 2019, he said. If groundbreaking has to wait until April, the venue could open in May 2019.

However, several steps of approval have to come before that.

The county commissioners will need to vote on the financing arrangement first, followed by the county council and then the Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission, Biddle said.

Herring’s presentation to the commissioners Nov. 1 was not for the purpose of a vote, but to put the information before them so that they could make a decision by Dec. 15.

County council members were invited to attend an already-scheduled meeting on Nov. 6 with the commissioners to hear Herring’s presentation.

The item will be submitted for the county council’s agenda Nov. 20.

Transparency statement: Sara Clifford’s husband is on the Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission, which is the body that decides how innkeepers tax money is spent. A different reporter has been writing about the Maple Leaf project for that reason. Clifford wrote this story because she was the only reporter working last week, when these changes were announced.

Maple Leaf details


  • The only full-time way in or out of the Maple Leaf will be via Maple Leaf Boulevard, a new, three-lane road to be built east of the Salt Creek Inn and Brown County Health & Living Community. Neither Hawthorne Drive nor Chestnut Street will connect to it.
  • A gated, emergency entrance/exit will be placed on the west edge of the Maple Leaf parking lot to connect to the YMCA parking lot.
  • Current drawings of the Maple Leaf show 2,013 seats; the original estimated had been 2,000.
  • A beer garden is being discussed with Big Woods/Quaff ON! Brewing Co. to go on one side of the Maple Leaf and a family/art garden on the other side.
  • Dressing rooms for performers may be able to double as break-out rooms for conference organizers who might rent the Maple Leaf. This was an idea Maple Leaf organizers developed after visiting a 1,600-seat venue in Effingham, Illinois.
  • The size of the women’s restroom was tripled from the original design.
  • A first-aid station and quick-exit door to the outside are in the new plans.
  • The concession sales space was doubled.


  • Total building costs: $12.5 million including $9.6 million for site work and land, $922,500 for sound system and furniture, $873,234 for unforeseen construction costs, $527,970 for administrative construction costs and $574,796 for financing costs
  • Loan total: $12.5 million
  • Interest rate: 3.43 percent
  • Term: 30 years
  • Annual mortgage: $559,000 until 2023, $773,000 thereafter
  • Average ticket sale price: $28.48 (national acts higher, local/regional acts lower)
  • Estimated ticket sales: 82,533 (25 national acts, 70 local/regional acts)
  • Estimated food and beverage sales: $863,577
  • Estimated performer expenses: $1.1 million
  • Estimated food, beverage, production and booking expenses: $969,289
  • Estimated payroll, marketing, maintenance, insurance and energy expenses and reserves: $803,044
  • Total estimated net operating income: $341,422
  • Estimated facilities fee income: $247,599 ($3 on 82,533 tickets)
  • Estimated proposed entertainment tax income: $82,533 ($1 on 82,533 tickets)
  • Estimated annual profit (if supplementing operating income with facilities and entertainment tax fees to pay mortgage): $112,544
Author photo
Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.