Duff: Arena deals aid civic pride, local economy

Mon, Feb 27
Barclays CenterAP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Barclays Center in Brooklyn will bring new visitors for its area for concerts and Nets games.

It seems that our society as a whole has become much more aware of our local economics. When your state, county and/or city is going broke -- like what has happened to so many here in America the past few years -- we become more aware of the whats and wheres of how we are paying our taxes. We have also become ultra-aware of new taxes. And most all of us have had a tough financial fight over these past few years, to coincide with our local government's malaise.

Sports seem to be a two-fold remedy for all of this. These games can make us forget, for a while, all of our daily pressures and worries. Secondly, restaurants, clothing shops and arena/stadium/parking facilities, all thrive from the onslaught of people in attendance.

It seems like a no-brainer. Even in the worst of financial times, people will spend money for sports. Local economies win. Right?

In 2006, Seattle voters voiced their collective opinion. They believed that any new arena that was "paid" for by the taxpayers must show a profit after the bonds were paid off. I think they were dead wrong.

The area in the lower Queen Anne District of Seattle (where the previous home of the Seattle Sonics, Key Arena, still sits pretty much empty) has never quite recovered economically from the loss of its NBA team. Restaurants and stores had to close. Scores of arena employees lost their jobs. Hotel rooms that would have been utilized for at least 41 nights of the year were now vacant. On top of that, the rather large sports community in the Northwest went into a major NBA-specific funk.

That "profit" on an arena initiative now seems like a short-sided and uninformed decision.

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