Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Soccer Stadium Is Not Dead Yet.

As reported in today's Beacon, Summit County is reviving plans to underwrite construction of a 20,000 seat domed soccer stadium to be part of a 400-acre complex featuring additional athletic fields, retail centers and possibly medical facilities. The stadium/retail village concept has been pushed by the Wolstein Group for some time now. That's their artistss rendering at right.

The ABJ does a good job of resetting the story. Briefly the County tried to finance the idea last year by imposing a 30 cent per pack cigarette tax. To do so they needed approval from the General Assembly. At that time, the One-Winged Psycho-Demon Duckbeasts from Hell were in power and, for whatever reason, they didn't approve.

No one in blogland did a better job of following the story than The Boring Made Dull, so catch up there if you need to.

Now County Council is proposing a sin tax on cigarettes and liquor which would not need the GA to sign off but would go on the ballot for voter approval. The ABJ notes that County Council announced that it would consider legislation for the tax at Monday's meeting. The announcement, which apparently happened late Friday, probably was prompted by Medina County taking action to woo Cabela's to Brunswick. As I noted, stadium proponents are looking at Cabela's as an anchor store for the retail component of the complex.

Looking at the stadium proposal makes the Bass Pro deal look so much better. Investment, even public sector investment, is about evaluating risk against reward. The Bass Pro deal, as described in the press, involves a minimum of risk to Akron. Bass Pro makes the initial investment in the property. The deal allows Bass Pro to retain sales taxes to recoup their investment, meaning they recoup only to the extent they have sales. If the business tanks, they take the loss.

On the other hand, if Summit County builds a soccer stadium, we place a $100 million bet on the future of major league soccer in Northeast Ohio. If the preceding sentence doesn't terrify you, nothing will. But independent of whether the stadium is a good risk, we should pause and note that we are taking the risk, not a business whose business it is to take risk.

I can give lots more reasons why the soccer stadium is a bad risk. But for now, the mere fact that we can put together tax deals that place the risk elsewhere should be enough of an argument against it.


TBMD said...

Apparently, there's no idea so bad that it can't find some suckers willing to swindle the public....

Ryan said...

I think this proposal is a good way to bring in and create new capital in Akron.

Where is the bad in the idea? The risk factor?