Sports, Taxpayers And The Power Elite…

Marc Elliott

HARE LAKE… For some reason I keep thinking that someday, somewhere, a major municipality is going to tell one of these major league sport teams when they come begging for a new stadium or arena with hat in hand that, we are sorry, but we are unable to financially participate right now for a myriad of reasons. At that point does said sports club follow through on their usual threats to “relocate” since you cannot acquiesce to us or what really happens? It would be interesting to see. It would be even more interesting to see what kind of haranguing might come into play against the club and/or the wealthy carpetbaggers in question if they did follow through on their threat.
Of course it is doubtful that the people in question would get tarred and feathered or run out of town on a rail as long past examples went. But would that not be poetic justice at it’s finest? At any rate, pro sports continues to give us some fine snapshots of “crony capitalism” and one of the best and latest comes from right over in Cheeseland. His Royal Majesty Scott Walker, while masquerading as State Governor, recently gave the three billionaires that own the Milwaukee Bucks a whopping $250mil to put towards their new arena project.
This entire sordid mess is so complex that in doing my research on this project and in trying to gauge if it is really worth it or not, if the taxpayers were really behind it and so forth, I depended on 3 different news articles to give me some perspective and after I sign off I will tell you how you can Google them. The short of the long is that Walker recently pushed through roughly $250mil in education cuts to the State education system there. Coincidentally this is the same amount that the state is willing to offer up to the Bucks for the arena project. Was this a conscious tradeoff that Walker purposely mapped out before subsidizing the billionaires place of business? I have to be honest here and say that I doubt it. It is probably just that, a coincidence.
The problem is, is that this politician both on and below the surface appears to be that devious. And certainly anyone who follows these issues knows the tangibles and intangibles a pro sport team can bring to a region. Were we not thrilled when the Twins won their two World Series here? Yes we were. Has the MetroDome been a bonafide financial success? Yes it has, if my memory is correct, the note on the Dome was retired early and it has been a fantastic tax and revenue generator for the Twin Cities. Of course it cost a fraction of what these projects are going for now and when newer buildings were coming online chock full of fan amenities that the econo-Dome didn’t have, it became obsolete before it was 15 years old.
Some things stand out to me though about the Wisconsin deal. The 3 principal owners of the team are worth an estimated $6bil. A $500mil arena project should be lunch money for them. Sure I know, we have come to understand that it matters not what they are worth, few of the elites who are team owners pay for these projects, some contribute part of the cost while in the past, some have contributed nothing. It appears to me that the league (NBA) is contributing zero funds to this, and in addition has a league bylaw that provides that no NBA team shall play in an arena older then 27 years.
The Governor has the state protected from financial harm in this package, not only that, but he personally received full power to place his own individuals on the board that will oversee it’s business operations. There are several provisions in the funding that may provide no funds at all to the project. The County involved is not shielded from financial harm should the project fail in some way. And as always there is the usual myriad of TIF’s, tax exemptions and so forth. This looks like an orgiastic pro sports giveaway the Roman Empire would be envious of. Jeez, at least the Vikings owners are putting in some money toward their new digs, even if about half of it won’t really be coming from them!
And I know, I have normally been easy on my fave NHL but they have been guilty as well, just nowhere near the level of some of these other pro sports extorters. Recently a new arena proposal has been announced by the Calgary Flames. The project involves a few different items but comes in at about $890mil. The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Group has six different pro sports ventures and has six major shareholders. Of the six, I could find wealth information on two of them. They are worth roughly a combined $4.5bil. They are willing to chip in about $220mil for this project and there are evidently some contamination issues with the potential site being discussed. The rest of the project will be funded by a mishmash of taxes and levies which may or may not pass muster with taxpaying Calgarians.
The Edmonton Oiler’s new arena will actually be ready for the 2016-17 NHL season. The principal owner is Daryl Katz and he is the 12th wealthiest Canadian according to Forbes magazine with a worth of $3.5bil estimated. His fortune comes primarily from the drugstore industry. The new Edmonton digs are coming in at $605mil with about a $112mil contribute from Katz, but it appears to me that he gets to pay that out over a 30 year timeframe! Can you say billionaire lunch money! It also looks like there are other contributions from him to cover some project shortfalls, but still…. looks like a sweetheart deal to me…. PEACE


Scott Walker steals from taxpayers and the poor to give billionaire basketball team owners a new arena…

Bucks arena plan far from a slam dunk for taxpayers…

Murphy’s Law; States Bucks arena plan fleeces Milwaukee….