Under sunny skies at City Hall, hours before a pivotal city council vote that will commit about $88 million of city money to a renovation project at Quicken Loans Arena about which enormous questions remain, a parade of civic leaders extolled the virtues of Dan Gilbert and economic growth.
In what was billed as a "major announcement," these leaders purported to "sweeten the deal" with three new provisions in the proposed financial arrangement.
Per Council President Kevin Kelley:
- The portion of the Q admission tax that goes to the city's general fund will never fall below the portion that goes to debt service on the renovation. If it ever does (from 2023-2034), the Cavaliers will write the city a check for the difference, and Kelley said he had it in writing.
- The Cavs say they will refurbish every basketball court at rec centers across the city.
- The Cavaliers will donate 100 percent of revenue from its playoff watch parties to Habitat for Humanity with the goal of rehabbing 100 Cleveland homes. (Last season, per Len Komoroski, that amounted to about $750,000. The year before, it was considerably less).
These provisions made for tremendous last-minute PR, and were reportedly negotiated over the weekend, but they amount to very little for local residents. Here's why:
The money for the project will come from admissions tax revenue at the Q. The current structure puts 5/8 from Cavs games toward debt service on Gateway bonds and 3/8 to the city's general fund. For non-Cavs-events, the split is 2/8 (to debt) and 6/8 (to general fund). Over the past couple of years, the revenues from these portions have been roughly the same. So the Cavs' guarantee is merely to ensure that that the amounts that are already nearly
the same will be precisely
Regarding Habitat: The Cavs have already
been donating 100 percent of their watch party revenue to area charities. This afternoon's announcement was merely picking a recipient
of these funds.
So the one real, new benefit announced this afternoon was the Cavs' promise to refurbish basketball courts at city rec centers. It's unclear if the Cavs will build new courts entirely or just, like, buff them. Either way, it's a pittance compared to the legitimate Community Benefits Agreement that the Greater Cleveland Congregations has been agitating for.
Recall that GCC wanted to create a Community Equity Fund that invested one dollar in the community for every public dollar invested in the Q. (That would amount to about $160 million.) They wanted those funds to be administered by an independent quasi-governmental body and spent on the immediate construction of mental health crisis centers, capital projects in Cleveland neighborhoods, and the creation of workforce programs that led to actual jobs (modeled after the Step Up to UH program).
And while a promise to "refurbish" basketball courts is a nice gesture, the scale is infinitesimal compared to what opponents desire.
Nonetheless, government officials and representatives from the city's black civic community approached the mic to forcefully condemn those who oppose the project — "Anyone against economic growth is foolish and unwise," said State Senator Sandra Williams — and to cheer on the majesty of corporate do-gooderism. What a spectacle!
Ken Silliman read a statement on behalf of Mayor Jackson. Kevin Kelley read a statement on behalf of U.S. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.
“The facts about what The Q means for all Cleveland residents are irrefutable," Fudge said in her statement. "The Q means jobs and growth, tax revenues and so much more. The building is a tremendous economic asset.”