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Hey, do we need any more concrete reefs in Lake Erie? By spring we'll have an extra 50,000 tons of concrete chunks, once the Richfield Coliseum is finally demolished. Since the Coliseum is the last privately financed pro sports facility this area may ever see, we've gotta hide all traces of its existence. Yep, we can't let future Iron Curtain residents know these sports palaces were once privately funded, without a dime from Joe Taxpayer.

Here's the deal. A private, nonprofit group, the Trust for Public Land, will pay Coliseum owners George and Gordon Gund about $7 million for the property. They'll demolish the building and sell the 330-acre plot to the federal government for about $9 mil. Then the feds will give it to the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, which will let the weeds take over. Canton area Congressman Ralph Regula helped line up the feds' dough.

Hell, it beats having some plastic megamall spring up on the property. That'd clog up the CVNRA park area with too many cars. Once Internet shopping grows, half of these malls will be torn down anyway. And as we've said before, a park is one of the few things government rarely screws up, since it involves no big construction projects and consequently no cost overruns or corrupt political payoffs.

Mouth must burp up salutes to the Gunds, for not selling to mall developers, and to the Trust for Public Land. They show how environmentalists can save land by buying it, rather than lobbying for a new law. A new law, no matter how well-intentioned, will always end up with extra amendments that inadvertently step on the property rights of innocent bystanders and cost everybody more money in the courts. For "the common good," of course.

But ain't it a shame that a sturdy 24-year-old building can't find a use? Comrades, this "planned obsolescence" ain't unusual in the monopoly money world of pro sports. Nick Mileti built the place for $36 mil, via loans from the Chase Manhattan and Mellon banks. The Coliseum opened October 26, 1974 with a Frank Sinatra concert, with tons more concerts to follow. For twenty years, it was home to the Calves and their predecessor, the Cavaliers. It was also home to obsolete teams called the Force, Barons, Crusaders, and Thunderbolts. The final game was a Lumberjacks exhibition in September of '94. Yep, it was a fan-friendly place, but it didn't have the appropriate big-bucks luxury boxes, so adios to the "Big House on the Prairie."

The Gunds bought the Coliseum mortgage from Chase Manhattan for $300,000 in '81, so this $7 mil sale ain't a bad deal for them. It'd be nice to auction off some old seats for benefit of the Gateway debts, but the Gunds already sold 'em all! In fact, they've already gutted most of the place. We can't help but wonder how much they got for those old wine-and-gold uniforms.

The Silencers
It was nice while it lasted, but ya knew the NBA Lockout was destined to end at the last minute. The main question was so vexing . . . How to divide $2 billion in annual revenue? As usual, Joe Taxpayer didn't get a share.

The smartest move for the league was the gag order it put on all team owners. After all, those government-subsidized leeches can't logically defend themselves. And that leaves the players to make all the dumb statements. The obedient sports media then jump on the players, making no mention of the owners' many tax breaks and subsidies.

For Mouth, the most fun in a sports labor dispute is the blatant spin of the league's "broadcast partners." Take the NBA's TV partner, NBC. For them, the NBA is just another weekly program to promote. And our NBC affiliate did its best when the lockout ended. While our other Bucharest stations led their 6 p.m. newscasts with weather stories (and hey, the world didn't end!), TV3 began with three reports on the NBA deal. Jim Donovan had the sports angle, and Jeff Maynor had the local fan and biz reactions. Six minutes into the show, Judd Hambrick finally said, "Now, turning our eyes to Washington." Oh yeah, the impeached Prez was about to go on trial, but even he has less pull at NBC than the almighty NBA.

Calves' radio partner WTAM went into mega-hype mode, too. The team owners' top corporate welfare pimp Bruce Drennan was on duty, poking fun at the greedy players. Here's a great example of the typical boldface lie you get when an economically illiterate sports talker tries to defend the owners. According to Drennan, when you're the team owner, "You take the risk, you pay the bills, you've gotta pay the rent!"

Heh-heh, that's some pimp job! The risk? Thanks to "public/private partnership" arenas laden with tax writeoff "premium seating," much of that risk is shifted to Joe Taxpayer. Plus, the TV money is guaranteed. Pay the bills? Blame Tom Chema for this one. Thanks to their "capital improvements clause," the Gunds get to deduct bills for everything from carpets to light bulbs from their rent. And what about that rent? The Gunds have yet to pay a dime. In fact, by their calculations, Gateway owes them money! Ah, but our local sports pimps are silent when it comes to these pertinent facts.

Shh, the silencers are at work. Comrades, as long as the sports pimps can keep selling their lies, you'll keep getting the bills.

Zombies Arise!
Yo, Clevo Council President Jay Westbrook finally wielded the ax. He cleaned out those nasty dissidents from council's key committee seats, and Mouth's gotta help you learn our new movers and shakers.

Gone from the Finance Committee are Mike Polensek, Ed Rybka, and Joe Zone. Replacing them are Nelson Cintron, Merle Gordon, and Carl Monday's fave councilman, Craig Willis. Rybka's also out as Planning Committee chair, replaced by the suitably compliant Odelia Robinson. Yep, the silent zombies have arisen and taken power!

Well, not really. They'll just be filling the chairs, following Westbrook's strong leadership. Which usually means whatever Hizzoner says is best. And that's usually what's best for Arnold Pinkney, Sam Miller, and Nate Gray. Hey, and what an agenda we have on tap this year. We gotta find $3 billion for Civic Vision. We gotta sell more land (cheap) to Miller and Pinkney, and open up more parking lots for Gray. And then there's the airport.

Should be a fun year. And one thing's for sure: Since you can't expect a zombie to actually write legislation, Hizzoner's staff will be busy.

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