Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
The tide has turned in Chicago against hosting the 2016 Olympics. Every day sees more public outcry. Today's column is by the sports reporter from a popular local news site.
Boosters oversell benefits of sports venues - Say NO to 2016
Patrick Kissane - Chi-Town Daily News
Jeff Long and Ken Manson report at the Chicago Tribune
about the troubles that are beginning to ensnare the Sears Centre in
Hoffman Estates. It was a story covered in part in this column too,
when the United Hockey League Chicago Hounds were unable to reach an
agreement with the Sears Centre for a lease renewal and folded. It
could also be the future story of the Metro Centre in Rockford, home of
the American Hockey League Rockford IceHogs and it could also be the
story of the 2016 Olympics in Chicago.
Public funding of large venues, from the
Cell to the renovation of Soldier Field, has promised great financial
rewards. But, according to the story by Long, the village of Hoffman
Estates is on the hook for millions in bond repayments if the venue
isn't profitable. First, of course, the current owners, a combination
of the Ryan Companies US of Minneapolis and Sears Holdings must move to
terminate their ownership. Sears had helped to sell the deal to the
village by promising to cover the bond payments for four years,
according to the story. Now that the four years are up, the ownership
group is looking to bail. Potentially holding the bag: the good
citizens of Hoffman Estates.
Cal Skinner, a well-known writer who edits the McHenry County Blog, has been following the effort by Crystal Lake to create a minor league baseball stadium
in his blog. Skinner lists a number of studies that question some of
the key sales points of proponents for large sports venues.
But it doesn't matter what the opponents
know about the lies put forward about economics by sports boosters. The
boosters ignore the facts and continue to sell the dream of money
falling from the sky.
Here's the reality. Over at the Illinois Sports Finance Authority,
once you get past the offal about helping the community, you can see
that financially, the Chicago White Sox contribute a tiny 7.3 percent
of the total revenue for the last fiscal year reported. Tax payers,
including visitors to the city, contribute almost 87 percent of the
total revenue needed to pay the ISFA's bonds through a subsidy of $5
million from each of the city and the state general fund and "hotel"
Meanwhile, the ISFA makes this claim:
"ISFA provided the public contribution, a total of $406 million, of the
$606 million needed for the Chicago Lakefront Development project,
including the significant restoration of Soldier Field. ISFA financed
this operation through the issuance of municipal bonds backed by an
existing 2 percent Authority Hotel Tax. This revenue did not come from
State or City general revenue funds, nor is it a result of increased
taxes for Chicago or Illinois residents."
It is Orwellian, at least, to claim that
after being funded to the tune of 87 percent of your budget, that you
did not use any of it to redevelop and restore Soldier Field. Can I get
my part of this back please? A simple walk around the neighborhood that
once called Comiskey Park home, will demonstrate that there wasn't a
large scale redevelopment of the area. While the North Side went
through a massive change which was largely funded by private
developers, the South Side has largely languished. Further, I think it
should be argued that the massive debt loaded onto Chicago taxpayers is
a subsidy to the private company which owns the Chicago White Sox. To
be fair, shouldn't the taxpayers also assist the Chicago Cubs?
We live in a truly Orwellian place
called Chicago. Guided by the mayor and the local Olympic boosters, we
are being sold tripe about the economic benefits to the 2016 games. The mayor has defended tax increases by calling them abatements, has sold us tax increases by saying they won't effect us, just tourists.
What I see in the Sears Centre
floundering is mismanagement by the Sears Centre, boosterism by the
local supporters resulting in the citizens holding the bag and a
warning of what could happen on a massive scale in Chicago if it
pursues the 2016 games. Boosters cannot and will not see futures that
challenge their rosy forecasts.
I am a citizen of Chicago, I am upset by the mismanagement by the city of its assets.
I do not believe the committee and this mayor any more. I say NO to the
games. NO to taxpayers assuming the risk. NO to this mayor and this
inept City Council and even worse Cook County government.