Can Cleveland Please Get a Few More Elected Leaders Like Cincinnati's?

click to enlarge Can Cleveland Please Get a Few More Elected Leaders Like Cincinnati's?
City and county officials in Cincinnati have responded resoundingly to a request for public contributions on an arena overhaul in the way that any sensible elected leader ought to:


"Go do it. It's your arena," Democratic County Commissioner Todd Portune said Wednesday, in comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer addressed to the arena's owners, Nederlander Entertainment. "We'll be happy to help with permits and zoning, but don't think that the county has a pot of money over here that we're waiting to make available."

Republicans and Democrats alike were united in their opposition to the public subsidy. Cincinnati is already reportedly $1 billion in debt on its other two pro sports stadiums (where the NFL's Bengals and the MLB's Reds play) and the U.S. Bank Arena is currently home to only a minor-league hockey team, with little hope of luring an NBA or an NHL franchise.

As such, the overhaul, which could cost as much as $350 million — the arena is in considerably worse condition than the Q — would be a "tough sell" for voters.

No kidding. Like Cleveland's Sin Tax, Cincinnati already has a dedicated half-cent sales tax that goes toward the Bengals' and Reds' stadiums, but officials worry that voters would not extend the tax, which is said to be unpopular.

Nevertheless, Cincinnati's site selection for Rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 2022 were said to hinge upon a facility upgrade. Folks at Nederlander Entertainment are optimistic that they'll work out a financing plan.

That sounds like the NBA's promise to host an All-Star game in Cleveland just as soon as Quicken Loans Arena is "enhanced" (to the tune of $140 million, which, through the magic of financing, will end up costing about $282 million, with about $160 million coming from the public, though all of that is subject to change!) For its part, the Q will host Rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tourney in 2020.

Just like in Cleveland, the owners in Cincinnati are promising that "major concerts and events, such as political conventions," will inject "hundreds of millions" of dollars into the local economy, and that even without a major tenant, an arena upgrade (or new construction entirely) makes financial sense.

The only difference is that in Cleveland, the majority of elected leaders — including Mayor Frank Jackson, City Council President Kevin Kelley, and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, all of whom are funded, to varying degrees, by the parties most vocally in support of the Q deal — believe them.
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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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