Charlotte won its bid to host the 2017 NBA All-Star game, and already the calculators are overheating.
Last fall Charlotte’s city council committed local taxpayers to $27.5 million in upgrades to Time Warner Arena, enough to persuade NBA commissioner Adam Silver that the Queen City deserves the event. The city will spend at least an additional $6 million on All-Star Weekend, including a $600,000 hosting fee to the league and another $600,000 in incremental police, fire, and medical costs.
The city of Charlotte shares ownership of Time Warner Arena with the Charlotte Hornets, having paid $260 million of the original construction cost in 2005. The arena replaced the Charlotte Coliseum, which was built in 1988 and was the home of the Hornets for 17 years before it was demolished despite a public outcry.
About $1.5 million of the cost will be paid from hospitality taxes and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority is forking over a similar amount. Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina will also be asked to chip in, but the rest of the cost will be borne by city taxpayers. Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who boasts a net worth of $1 billion thanks to the appreciation in the value of his team, has offered to pay $150,000 of the tab out of concession profits.
Charlotte Mayor pro tem Michael Barnes said, “We have to invest in assets the city owns.” The city’s somewhat vague contract requires it to maintain a facility that is “among the NBA’s most modern”. The city council approved the spending on a partisan 9-2 vote. One of the dissenters, Republican Ed Driggs, thinks the taxpayers are on the receiving end of a flagrant foul.
“Many don’t believe public money should be used to subsidize a for-profit business,” Driggs told the Charlotte News Observer. “How do we rationalize the terms of this? We pay all the capital costs and receive no proceeds. What kind of partnership is this?”
Charlotte taxpayers are still looking for an ‘unnecessary roughness’ penalty flag after the city council gave NFL owner Jerry Richardson $87.5 million for questionable improvements to Panther Stadium. And the fiscal finish line is nowhere in sight for the uptown money-pit Nascar Hall of Fame, which cost $194 million in public funds and is still losing over a million bucks a year.
The residents of Charlotte own some of the finest sports facilities that money can buy, but most can’t afford to enjoy them, thanks to ever-escalating ticket and concession prices. The players seem to have more success negotiating with team owners, as evidenced by Cam Newton’s new $104 million contract with the Panthers.
Maybe Charlotte taxpayers need a new agent.
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Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
Sometimes building ivory towers, sometimes knocking castles down
Sometimes building you a stairway, lock you underground
It’s that old-time religion, it’s the kingdom they would rule
It’s the fool on television, getting paid to play the fool
I play in a three-piece band on weekends and am occasionally looked down upon by a prospective venue booker who thinks that it takes a bunch of musicians to make good music. Hmm. Here’s a pretty darn good little three-piece band: