Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Green Begins To Fade.

It is always a relevant and necessary question in this era of balanced budgets, state deficits, and attempts to shore up the financial future of more important concerns to the general public whether or not sports stadia and arenas ought to have ANY public investment when owned by private companies or individuals (I make an exception for the Green Bay Packers, the sole model of public ownership.)

Washington's state government has added its name to the list of those refusing to ask its taxpayers to shoulder that burden, and it means the Sonics and Storm will be gone after 2007-08, some form of miracle notwithstanding. I have never been a fan of public involvement in paying for homes for sports teams, because much of the complaining about newer facilities rings hollow when teams leave buildings that aren't really that old, and do it for one-sport-only stadia and arenas.

TrueHoop provides a good compendium and summary, with links to folks espousing the need to keep the team and its 40 years of history in the Emerald City. But it's hard for me to agree with Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley on this. $300 million for a state is not exactly just a drop in the bucket to be able to cough up for a multi-purpose arena:

The proposal made by new Sonics owner Clay Bennett is a work in progress. The proposal needs to be more specific. He has to settle on a site. And, I believe, his ownership group has to pony up more money for the building. After all, this is a franchise that spent more than $60 million on a couple of centers — Jim McIlvaine and Calvin Booth — who were about as mobile as an all-purpose arena. This is a franchise that didn't mind wasting more than $70 million on big-league bust Vin Baker. Bennett and his group can afford to be more of a partner in this place. But let's not be the one state that says, "No."

Someone has to at some point. L.A. is still saying no to the NFL, and it hasn't bothered anyone there one bit outside of the city politicians who mouth platitudes about getting a team to play in the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl. Eventually, cities and states are going to have to start saying "no" a lot more often to franchise owners; there's a lot of power in that. And there's no particular reason why cities have to be three or four-sport cities.

Ultimately, Washington's state government has every right to ask Bennett, if his plan is that flawed, to come forward with an acceptable one before they grant the use of public funds, because when you have paid for two stadiums for baseball and football in the last decade, any plan that involves public money is going to come under more scrutiny. The onus is not on the local government, and shouldn't be. That $300 million could go somewhere where it is more desperately needed -- education, transportation, etc.

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