Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Our New Arena: Did We Get Hosed?

The Trib editorial board takes a very dim view of the deal we just struck with the Penguins, not to mention Trib cartoonist Randy Bish.

Although the P-G's editorial is amiable, its blog Early Returns warns that the "losers" in the deal may not be readily apparent, and credit the "masterful skills of the Pens' public relations team":

Crucially, they created the presumption that the hockey facility should have first claim on gambling revenues. The public bought it without any debate on whether there should be other claimants to the cash the casino operators were willing to throw off to get a license. Potential contenders such as tax cuts, health care, the city's crushing debt never got a hearing.

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat asks some sobering questions:

1) Is Mario's purchase of the former St. Francis Hospital included in the Pen's "credit" even though it is a sunk cost?
2) How are the "development rights" for the Mellon Arena Site to be handled?
3) Are these municipal bonds? State bonds? SEA bonds? If it is the first or last, is it fair to say that "no local money" is being used if it eats into the City's debt
4) How is the Arena going to support itself over the long run?
5) Where will the cost overrun money come from, really?
6) Is this a wise use of taxpayer ("local" being irrelevant to the conversation) money?
7) What, exactly, do you have to have as an existence value to get the NPV of the project to be positive? A zillion-bagillion dollars?

The Trib's Andrew Conte appears to answer a few of these; we await some learned analysis. Conte also throws cold water all over the fantasy of re-extending Wylie Avenue, and adapting the outer husk of the Civic Arena to some kind of public use.

Finally, a little birdie tells the Comet that the city may have violated its own laws about how and when it can award permits for demolition and construction, by granting these for the new Penguins facility without holding the requisite public comment period. If true, taking this "shortcut" would almost exactly replicate the mistakes made by bringing hockey to the Hill District in the first place.


  1. Bram, is there more information you can share about city laws on demolition and construction permits? I think this is worth following up.

  2. Again, this comes from a "little birdie," whom we know and trust, but don't place above making mistakes.

    Investigation is not among our core competancies, unfortunately.

    We posted this in hopes that one of our four-legged friends might follow up on it. If it turns out to be bunk, perhaps they can let us know in an appropriately pseudonymious comment.