Warriors a model for arena deals

The Golden State Warriors distinguished themselves in the 2014-15 season by winning an NBA championship. The Warriors now further distinguish themselves, this time civically, with their purchase of private land and construction of an arena without taxpayer financing.
Having realized last year the mayor’s “legacy” attempt to use public property at Piers 30-32 for an arena, partially at taxpayer expense, was ill-advised, the Warriors acted as a private business entity should. The Warriors bought private property near the Bay and will construct an arena and accompanying facilities with their own money. They separate themselves from almost all professional sports franchises, which clamor whiningly for taxpayer defrayment of billion-dollar sports projects.

During the 1980s, under prior ownership, the San Francisco Giants unsuccessfully demanded a new park from taxpayers in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. I joined thousands of other citizens in rejecting such conceit and implicit transfer of financial responsibility. New owners wisely built AT&T Park with private investment. Nonetheless, examples abound of cities using public money for the business of billionaire professional sports teams. The Sacramento Kings were provided a new arena about 30 years ago by Sacramento city taxpayers to entice the Kings from Kansas City. Arco Arena was satisfactory, if not superlative, to this spectator; still, the current owners threatened movement of the team a few years ago unless a new arena was built with substantial taxpayer contribution.

In August, Sacramento officials announced sale of $272,900,000 of bonds for the city’s share of a new arena downtown, costing approximately $507 million. The bonds will require payment of about $18 million annually from taxpayer for 25 years. Sacramento will pay the bonds and interest from parking meter revenue and public garages, whose rates will increase. Taxpayer bounty includes land parcels donated to the billionaire Kings owners.
Carson constitutes a small city of approximately 92,000 residents in eastern Los Angeles County, with NFL ambitions. As with many California cities, its one-time redevelopment agency granted a developer corporation, Carson Marketplace, the right and obligation to build a mixed-use project about five years ago. Because of contamination, the site required remediation. The Carson Redevelopment Agency performed that work for almost $40 million. The developer never built its project. Three years ago, redevelopment agencies were abolished by the governor and state Legislature. Now, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers desire a football stadium on such remediated parcel without reimbursing Carson taxpayers for the developer’s prior default on repaying the Carson agency, which succeeded Carson’s redevelopment agency under state law.

Upon completion of their arena by 2019, the Warriors’ conduct will stand in estimable contrast to the professional team owners whose attitude bespeaks a philosophy that taxpayers owe them a living. The Warriors remind this seasoned fan of years in which sports teams played in their own facilities without taxpayer subsidies (think of Comiskey Park for the White Sox, Briggs Stadium for the Tigers, Ebbets Field for the Dodgers, Shibe Park for the Athletics, Busch Stadium for the Cardinals, and Wrigley Field, even now for the Cubs). Professional sports teams are private enterprises. Maybe, just maybe, others will heed the Warriors example to the delight of taxpayers everywhere. San Francisco taxpayers certainly deserve a temporary reprieve from spendthrift City Hall. All hail to the Warriors for resurrecting free enterprise in professional sports.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.) is a former Board of Supervisors member, state Senator, and Superior Court Judge, now president of the San Francisco Taxpayers Association.

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