Wednesday, December 21, 2005

He Shoots and Scores...

Mario Lemieux found a casino operator willing to build an Arena for the Penguins free of charge, provided said casino operator receives a slots license from the Gaming Control Board. They'll even turn the $290M asset over to the Stadium and Exhibition Authority upon completion, granting the city an enormous asset free of charge. It seems, for the first time in the City's history, something might actually be built WITHOUT subsidy. Regional check-toting politicos are dumbfounded... no role for the Grant Street Santa? Turns out government need only provide the right mixture of incentives like slots/liquor licenses, cheap vacant property, good schools & good transit links to make development happen? Too bad for them, its a hell of a lot easier to cut a check than run a good government.

All things considered, this developer is getting quite a deal. The obvious is that slots will probably pay for any arena constructed on site rather quickly. Consider the other factors: The developer is getting 50+ acres of primo real estate on the cusp of the Golden Triangle. If the street grid is reconnected as Lemieux plans, this property is worth well in excess of the $290M investment in the arena. This ain't Fifth/Forbes, folks: for once, the city and the Pens have a shitload of leverage.

Hopefully Lemieux and the city will demand concessions from this casino operator for this stadium. The city and the Pens should be allowed to pick their own development team, determine the site plan for the development, and have strict quality control over the construction process. This town can really push for a quality development, leveraging the value of this slots license to build a solid, TAXABLE asset for this city. For all the expenses we will incur in the coming years, from crime to addiction to poverty, the least we can get is a quality real estate development for the city that throws some green into the city's coffers.

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