Coliseum plan bad for taxpayers


Given Nassau’s dire financial straits; the proposal to ask county taxpayers to approve public financing for a $400 million sports arena and ballpark facility on behalf of Charlie Wang, a private citizen, is Greek Comedy, so hilariously preposterous that it’s a worthy theme for Aristophanes.

Recent comments by Warren Meyer; “A Critical Battle over the Sports Economics Model” ( Forbes from 3/10/11 ) is quoted at length below, in which he persuasively argues that the ‘business of sports’ has more than its fair share of charlatans and hustlers always out to make sure they end up the winners while taxpayers are the losers.

” A critical battle is underway challenging the very essence of the sports economics model. The fight is between a struggling league (NHL), an Arizona suburb (Glendale) with delusions of grandeur and a small regional think tank (the Goldwater Institute). At stake is a vital source of revenue and value for virtually every professional sports franchise, namely taxpayer subsidies……In ‘03 Glendale agreed to publicly fund $180 million of the $220 million cost of a new arena for the Phoenix Coyotes Hockey Club. This subsidy represents more than 130 percent of the value of the club, currently worth only $134 million.

Stuck in Arizona, the Coyotes are essentially worthless without continuing taxpayer subsidies…..Recently, Glendale proposed issuing another $100 million in bonds whose proceeds would be available to private investors as an incentive for anyone interested in purchasing the club…..The situation has been complicated by Glendale’s lack of transparency in its dealings.

The City argues that it is not subsidizing the purchase of the club but rather is simply buying the rights to charge for parking at the arena. If so, the question arises as to why these valuable rights can’t be used to collateralize private financing…..If this goes forward, Glendale will have spent some $300 million on a club worth $134 million without any prospects or plans for it to become profitable in the foreseeable future.”

Predictably, here in Nassau County, the usual suspects are out in force beating the drum for similar economic nonsense; the construction unions looking for work for their members, the politicians looking for notoriety and a front row seat at the arena/ballpark and the crony capitalists looking to reap the rewards while shifting the risks onto the back of taxpayers.

When taxpayers insist on transparent arms-length transactions from disinterested parties and vote “no” on economic fantasies built on hopes and prayers projections; the fundamental health of the county will change for the better and not before.

Tom Coffey



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