Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chicagoland's cautionary tale

In a Chicago suburb, the result of a pro sports team prowling for taxpayers to bankroll a new stadium and opportunistic politicians quick to make promises they cannot keep:

This for a deal that — initially, at least — looked like it might actually work out for the town of Bridgeview, since taxpayers' $100 million in stadium bonds were supposed to be paid off by stadium revenues. Except that, according to the Tribune, "the final deal called for much of the revenue from soccer games to go to the Chicago Fire, leaving Bridgeview with as much as a $23 million budget hole over the stadium's first five years — one that could ultimately have to be filled by raising property taxes.

This is why it's so vitally important who's on the hook for stadium costs if revenue projections don't work out — and why it's crucial in Seattle that prospective arena builder Chris Hansen is actually agreeing to increase rent payments to cover any shortfall in arena revenues.

Bridgeview, though, didn't get the Fire owners to agree to such a provision, so now they're getting, well, kicked in the teeth. Not so much, though, the Bridgeview elected officials who approved the deal, who've gotten to hand out millions of dollars worth of contracts to favored businesses.

These stadium deals seem to become shell games where money is hidden and shifted until heads spin trying to figure out where it all went. We experienced some of that recently here in Nashville with the pro hockey revenues. Buyers beware of the legalized confidence games.

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