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Bobcats ask Charlotte for $34.1 million to upgrade NBA’s third-newest arena

Mar 21, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Charlotte Bobcats

In 2001, Charlotte voters rejected a proposal to use public money on a new basketball arena.

In 2002, the Hornets moved to new Orleans.

That obviously wasn’t a coincidence. Across the country, professional sports teams hold cities hostage, seeking public welfare for a very private enterprise. Until cities routinely say no, teams will keep requesting – and usually getting – what they want. In Charlotte, that meant the Bobcats got a $265 million area in 2005.

So, why wouldn’t the Bobcats ask for $34.1 million more from the city to upgrade their arena?

Who cares whether they’re playing in the NBA’s third-newest arena (behind only Brooklyn and Orlando)? Who cares whether the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which operates the arena’s “’back of the house’ functions such as HVAC,” is already requesting $7.8 million from the city? Who cares whether the Bobcats rank 25th in the NBA in both per-game and percentage-of-capacity?

Let’s tax many to benefit a few. And by a few, I really mean a few.

According to Steve Harrison of The Charlotte Observer, in the next four years, the Bobcats want:

$1.27 million for “event-level” restaurant refurbishment

$1.3 million for HD broadcast infrastructure

$1.42 million to move the ticket office

$1.6 million to improve hospitality space

$2.3 million to remake the Founders Level restaurant

$2.5 million for floor repairs

$2.5 million for a youth activity area in the upper concourse

$3.5 million for “exterior digital equipment”

$5.9 million to improve suites

$7.7 million for “scoring and video equipment update

If it seems those upgrades are geared toward the Bobcats’ premium ticket holders, it’s because they probably are. That’s how these things always work.

Even the projects that could benefit everyone who patronizes the arena – possibly like moving the ticket office – seem superfluous. Is it really necessary to spend $1.42 million of taxpayer money to move the ticket office?

Maybe. The Bobcats must submit justifications for each project, and they’re in the process of doing so.

According to Harrison:

The lease calls for the city to make improvements to the building to keep it among the most modern in the NBA, to ensure the team can “maintain economic competitiveness and revenue potential.”

But there will likely be negotiations between the team and the city as to what is needed and what isn’t, and what the city is obligated to pay for, said Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.

The 25-year lease also gives Charlotte a good deal of leverage, binding the team’s owners to keep it in Charlotte. The city is well-positioned to tell the Bobcats these costs are too high and that Michael Jordan should some expenses on himself if he wants these upgrades. Logic points to that $34.1 million figure being reduced once both sides negotiate.

The way these processes usually unfold, though, the city will end up spending $50 million to appease the Bobcats.

  1. asimonetti88 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    The sad part is they will get it.

    • florida727 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      Unfortunately you’re probably right. If I’m a Charlotte or North Carolina resident, I’d ask the Bobcats if since my tax dollars are going to improving your business, do I get a proportional percentage of your profits at the end of the year? What’s in it for ME if MY money is going toward making YOUR franchise more valuable?

      • ProBasketballPundit - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:18 PM

        You could say this about 99% of taxes… because you don’t specifically benefit from what the government spends it on.

  2. ras1tafari - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    There isn’t much in this world that annoys me more than billionaires asking for public money. I want lawmakers to GROW A PAIR OF BALLS AND TELL THESE OWNERS TO GO F–K THEMSELVES.

    The next time a sports franchise owners gives me a split of the profit, then I will give him money for a stadium. Until then, no f–king way.

    • RavenzGunnerz - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Seattle people wish they didn’t grow a pair and tell the owner to go f-k himself. He moved the team to OKC…

      Seattle tried to get the team back at the cost x2 the original upgrade request…

    • bendover09 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      Right after they’re done from taking the public’s hard-earned dollar then they rape you on the ticket prices. Let’s not even mention how fast they make the money off beverages and food. 4.25 for a bun and weiner. Sad part is … It’s the cheap dollar pack dogs. Or how about, the fountain drinks that are mixed and not even the real soda.

      Jordan flys off in his big MJ logo plane while we sit in traffic eating McDonald’s while being yelled at bc were late for a $7.25 job

    • nykfanwakemeupin2015 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      its not about growing a pair of balls. Its about biting the hand that feeds you. Think of all of the political contributions aka lobbying aka legal bribery they would be losing out on by telling others to go f themselves. Its this exact scenario as to why are country is in such bad shape.

    • dcangelo - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:38 AM

      As long as they don’t mind the team moving to a city that WILL give them the moolah, they can do exactly what you’re suggesting. Otherwise, they need to buck up.

  3. whoisrdymlz - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Well, the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County own the building. I believe these are just recommendations. The public was always going to pay to keep it up to date. A lot more than basketball games happen there.

    • florida727 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      In which case, ignore my post above and INCREASE THEIR RENT to offset the amount of money they’re asking for… spread out over time of course; don’t want to be unreasonable :)

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      yes that’s true, but the team, the OWNERS signed a 25 yr lease…

      now, less than 10 yrs into it, they want changes.

      we all KNOW they’ll want more upgrades and changes because in another 10 yrs it will be even older and it will be “killing” them to be playing in a “dump like this” they’ll say in nicer words at the time…

      in other words, this is only the beginning.

      teams and owners just cant seem to stay 25 in a building anymore…

      the Atlanta Falcons began working to get out of their current stadium, the Georgia Dome when it was like 19 or 20 yrs old… they’ll be in their new stadium in a few yrs…

      in charlotte there will be a lot more of this over the years… we need this, we have to have this…

  4. mrlaloosh - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    George Shinn was right.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      About what, raping underage girls or trying to extort money from a city?

  5. sdelmonte - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Michael Jordan can pay for this himself.

  6. nflcrimerankingscom - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Best franchise model = Green Bay Packers

    Public ownership CAN work.

  7. chunkala - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Why doesn’t the US governement make a law outlawing the funding of stadiums/teams with public money? That would solve this issue in the future.
    I’m usually pro-owner but this is ridiculous. But also ridicilous how ambivalent Charlotte and the Southeast are to sports other than college football and NASCAR.

    • fanofthegame79 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      That’s interesting: I’m usually pro-player but I see the sense in this stuff. The amount of money that these arenas bring to the surrounding areas typically outweighs the cost in taxes (fractions of a cent to the tax payers).

      • adamsjohn714 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        That is entirely incorrect. The money that the stadium brings in goes to a very select few people and doesn’t stimulate the local economy. The money people spend on tickets would be spent somewhere else in the community if the team wasn’t there, so it’s not like people need an NBA team in their town to spend money and help the economy. Do a little research.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        That’s just not true. There is literally 0 data to back that up.

      • fanofthegame79 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:21 PM

        Guys, there’s tons of data to back this up. Parking lots make money on games. Venders make money on the games. Local bars and other merchandise companies make money on the games. And most, if not all of those businesses, hire AND PAY employees to work while games are happening. How can you not see that sporting events bring in a lot of money for the local businesses. Source: I’m a small business owner in Phoenix that makes money on Suns games (and I’m not rich and I have a regular day job).

      • fanofthegame79 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        I keep reading your comment adamsjohn: it’s not like people need an NBA team in their town to spend money. True, but do you live where an NBA team resides? And if so, have you been to your downtown area during an NBA game and then compare that to the foot traffic to a night when there’s no NBA game? So do a little research your self.

      • dcangelo - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:40 AM

        Yes, the hotels and restaurants make out, usually local TV and radio make out, people are employed to be vendors, etc. There’s a reason why municipalities want pro sports franchises.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

        Yes but no enough to offset the tens of billions of dollars contributed by tax payers. If the goal is to generate more jobs there are much more efficient ways to do it than giving artificially high profits to billionaires.

      • fanofthegame79 - Mar 22, 2014 at 8:31 AM

        Let me be clear, I’m not for paying more in taxes – any taxes. But I do feel some taxes (since we are taxed on everything, and double-taxed too!) are better than others. All I was saying is that $34 million in taxes, divided by how many people over how many years turns into an amount that’s negligible. It’s not like the Bobcats are asking for all $34 million be paid for within a year. It’s spread out and amortized in a way that makes it not be felt (fractions of a cent of a purchase) – or say for every $100 you spend, an extra $0.01 is added to your bill.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        If it’s so negligible then the billionaire owners can pay it. You shouldn’t be asking the public to subsidize your private industry. If that’s the case then the municipality should get a commensurate share of the team.

  8. blakegblogs - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Article says wherever the the, TYPO

    • eugenesaxe1 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Don’t whine about typos.
      BTW, your use/lack of punctuation renders you unfit to be a grammar Nazi.

  9. ranfan12 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    Better use that money for some better players :/

  10. Professor Fate - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    A couple of things immediately came to mind:
    1) Looks like they’re getting the Hornets name back just in time to move somewhere else.
    2) I’m sure they could pay for those improvements with luxury tax money, but that would cut into the profit margin, wouldn’t it?
    3) A simple reason the NFL has been absent from the nation’s second-largest media market (L.A.) for more than two decades now is that voters there will not subsidize another millionaire’s stadium. More voters need to bite the bullet and refuse to subsidize rich folks’ toys.
    4) It is possible to build and/or improve sports arenas/stadiums without stealing from taxpayers, it’s just that it’s always the first option. If that doesn’t work then the money men look elsewhere for sheep to fleece. Only as a last resort is private money pursued. Remember the old adage (strictly adhered to by the very wealthy): Never gamble with your own money.

    And after reading some of the comments regarding politics (almost never a good topic to broach here, but very relevant in this instance) I must say that all of the angst about bought-and-paid candidates could easily be solved by just not voting for either of the major parties’ shills. Too many voters think that going with a third-party candidate is somehow throwing their vote away. If the pol you’re voting for is being bankrolled by large corporations then you are part of the problem. And the two major parties’ people are pretty much all owned by corporations.

    • dcangelo - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:44 AM

      No, the reason the NFL doesn’t have a team in LA is that the last two teams that were there failed at the gate and the stadium wasn’t the problem. It’s not a great football town. In fact, the NFL is considering building a stadium there just to host Super Bowls and hopefully to draw an expansion team or move a team like Jacksonville. But they haven’t been able to justify the expense yet, even though they could get sponsors to offset a huge portion of the expense. LA has historically been a weak pro football town.

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