Taking A Look At the Times’ Editorial Board’s Bad Publically Financed Arena Examples

An Editorial Board is supposed to sit down and review all of the facts regarding a situation. An Editorial Board is supposed to present both sides evenly before putting out its opinion. Blogs and editorials published by one person are not held to the same standard (although they should be). So when I read a piece published by an editorial board I expect to see both sides and a thoroughly explained and well written argument about why one side is right.

Unfortunately when I sat down and read the Seattle Times’ Editorial Board’s piece on Chris Hansen’s Arena Proposal I was very disappointed. Despite what they say in the introduction says they very clearly take a stand on Hansen’s arena proposal. Now don’t get me wrong they are titled to their opinions, but giving your opinion after saying you won’t is misleading and down right near a violation of the editorial board’s integrity. To make the entire situation worse they use several minor league arena/stadium deals (and a parking garage corporation) to prove their point!

I will try and counter their incomplete information with complete information and I will do this in a two parts. The first part (the post you are reading now) will review the arena/stadium deals that the Times’ Editorial Board brought up in their post (deals that went bad). As for the second part, that will talk about arena/stadium deals that turned out good for the cities (including two in the Times’ own back yard). We will begin, after the jump, with Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Red Bull Arena Before a Soccer Game

Red Bull Arena is a 20,000 seat (and $200 million) soccer stadium that is the home of the Major League Soccer team the New York Red Bulls. Around the arena is empty warehouses and “industrial wreckage” that was supposed to be turned into condos and retail spaces. The City of Harrison, New Jersey paid $39 million in public bonds to help clean up the land under and around the arena site; that was the end of the public investment in Red Bull Arena. Harrison figured that tax revenue from the redevelopment of the area around the building would pay off the debts on the clean-up; the redevelopment (and the city’s ability to pay off the bonds) hasn’t happened yet.

The Red Bull’s billionaire owner (ranked 208th richest man in the world by Forbes) is trying to wiggle out of the property taxes on the venue, claiming that he doesn’t actually own the land. Add in the fact that Harrison has suddenly plummeted into debt and people are looking to assign the blame to somebody/something. That something happens to be a $39 million dollar investment in an MLS Stadium and the redevelopment that was supposed to, but has yet to, happen.

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Is This Complex Dead?

In Allentown, Pennsylvania an attempt to bring minor league hockey to the city is stuck in a legal quagmire. The city decided to build a $220 million dollar arena, hotel and office building complex in the downtown area, in an attempt to restart the city’s crumpling job market. At first everything looked like it was going to going all ahead full. Allentown bought one of its blocks back for $35 million dollars and began doing preparatory work for their new complex. Now the city block is a giant hole that is currently empty and there is no visual activity going on at the site, and this is all thanks to one of Allentown’s municipality’s.
Bethlehem’s (a municipality of Allentown) officials are objecting to the city using its bond power in an attempt to jumpstart the city’s lagging job market and bring tourist, and their money, into the area. They have launched a lawsuit that has brought the work on the site to a halt, and has probably killed the attempt to build an arena/office building/hotel complex.

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The only arena plan that the Times brought up that is similar to Chris Hansen’s plan is the Allentown Hockey Arena. As you undoubtedly noticed Allentown was trying to create jobs (an office building, hotel and hockey arena can do that) and now it doesn’t look like it is going to happen because a neighboring city objected to Allentown using Allentown’s bonds to build this complex. That is why $35 million in public funds have been wasted; not because the arena was a money pit, but because it has the city hasn’t even been able to begin construction.

As for the Red Bull Arena, a building that was built using private funds, people are trying to blame the city’s original $39 million dollar clean-up of the land, under and around the building, for the city’s sudden plunge into debt. Did the $39 million the city put into the building play a part? I definitely would agree that it did, but I would disagree that it played a major part in the city’s debt collapse.
All of this I found out after a ten minute Google search. You would think that the Seattle Times’ Editorial Board would spend at least that long fact checking something before posting it on the internet, for all to see.

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