Indiana bill would give $174m in tax kickbacks to minor-league soccer stadium, oh Indiana

That Indy Eleven soccer-stadium-plus-other-crap development project mentioned on Friday has state legislation to go with it now, and it includes a dollar figure for how much tax money would be kicked back to help pay for the stadium:

A plan to fund a soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven took shape in legislation Tuesday with a proposal that could capture up to $11 million annually in tax revenue to pay off the bonds for the $150 million outdoor arena…

The [Professional Sports Development Area] could capture up to $11 million in tax revenue per year for 32 years—money that would be paid by the businesses, residents and even athletes living or working at Eleven Park. That revenue would be diverted to the Capital Improvement Board—which would own the 20,000-seat stadium, but not the private development surrounding it—for the purpose of paying for the public infrastructure.

And here’s the bill, as introduced by state senators Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman. It specifies that the taxes to be redirected are not property taxes — as you’d see under traditional tax increment financing — but rather construction sales taxes and income taxes on anyone living or working within the special tax area, where the special tax area is as yet to be determined. So in essence, Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir wants to build a big development with a stadium in it, draw a line around some portion of it (or all of it, or all of it and then some), then say, “Okay, instead of paying income taxes to the state, everyone within that line pays income taxes to me instead.”

As for how much money this comes to, that’s easy to figure out with the help of our old friend the present value calculator: $11 million a year for 32 years, 5% estimated average interest rate, and we get — or rather Ozdemir gets: $174 million. For a stadium that would only cost $150 million to build. A minor-league stadium at that, unless Indy Eleven gains entry into MLS; and even then, it would still be close to the record set by D.C. United for the largest MLS stadium subsidy ever.

This is crazytown, but then, Indiana has a long track record of being crazytown when it comes to sports subsidies, having offered some of the most generous deals ever to the Colts and Pacers owners. Right now it’s only a state senate bill with two sponsors, but it definitely bears watching — even if you don’t live in Indiana or care about what that state does with its tax money, if this passes it would both raise the bar on what’s considered an acceptable soccer subsidy and open the door to a whole new world of income-tax kickbacks as a public funding scheme for private stadiums.

 

Thanks, FoS readers, for your invaluable support (now please give me money and I will send you cheap trinkets)!

We’ve been through Giving Tuesday and holiday gift-giving and year-end donations, and now it’s time for me to ask: If you have any coin left over, please consider throwing a bit my way to become (or remain) a Field of Schemes supporter! This site takes a considerable amount of time and expense to keep up with, and paid ads don’t pay much of the bills, so I’ve been fortunate enough that you readers have been willing to toss your loose change in the tip jar to help keep this site going into its third decade.

This year, in addition to my undying appreciation (estimated retail value: incalculable), FoS supporters at every level will get a brand-new token of my esteem: a pair of newly designed Field of Schemes refrigerator magnets, featuring some of your favorite stadium scam facts in a design honoring the “Did You Know?”–style cartoons on 1970s sports cards:

In addition, donors at the $50 and $100 level will, as always, get a slot in the rotating ad space in the top right corner of this site (for six months and one year, respectively) to do with as you please. (I can help design ads if you have an idea but no artistic skills, and donating ad space to a favored charity is always welcomed.)

And, of course, you’ll get me continuing to produce this site, for free access to all, for another year. I still have plans for a couple more FoS 20 interviews before this 20th anniversary year is over in April, and some other ideas for special projects in the hopper as well, all of which are much easier to devote time to when I don’t have to scramble for other ways to pay the bills.

And whether you choose to become a Supporter or not, thank you all for helping make this site more than just one person shouting at clouds, but rather a community, with your insightful comments, your emailed news tips, and your Mark Davis quips. In the increasingly lowest-common-denominator world that is the internet, this site manages to continue to have daily conversations that are funny and free-wheeling but also mostly serious and respectful, and that is a rare and valuable thing.

And now, let’s all celebrate another year of observing stadium and arena scams by watching the Milwaukee Bucks‘ old arena get blown up, just 30 years and a few months after it was opened, solely because the team’s owners wanted a new one and pretended the NBA would force the team to move without one. (Form for signing up for or renewing your Supporter status is below the video.)


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St. Pete officials argue confusingly about whether to offer Rays owner stadium money before he asks for it

The Tampa Bay Times has a long record of really terrible, boosterish reporting (plus conflicts of interest) on the push for a new Rays stadium, and this article doesn’t exactly help raise the bar. It’s ostensibly about how two St. Petersburg city officials have different thoughts on whether the city should tell Rays owner Stuart Sternberg how much they’re willing to put up toward a new stadium, or wait for Sternberg to figure out how much he wants to ask for:

City Council member Charlie Gerdes wants clarity, and believes it would be prudent for city, county and state officials to come up with the amount of public money that could be available to help fund a new St. Petersburg ballpark.

Gerdes hopes that will make it easier for the Rays to stay — or at least decide their future sooner.

“We need to go to them,” Gerdes said. “I think we all need to be able to look each other in the face and say ‘we did everything we could’’’ in the event the team decides to leave.

Others believe the Rays must make the first move.

“If they aren’t interested in ever pursuing a new stadium, there there’s no need to start convening all the other folks together and saying ‘what do we think we can realistically come up with,’” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

Now, I know that the Times is just reporting what Gerdes and Kriseman are saying, but reporter Josh Solomon really should be pointing out that neither of these arguments entirely makes sense. Especially Gerdes’s: Offering Sternberg a set stack of dollar bills isn’t going to “make it easier for the Rays to stay,” unless maybe you think you’re going to so massively overbid that it’s an offer he can’t refuse — which presumably isn’t what Gerdes is trying to say? Or not say out loud, at least?

Kriseman’s response, meanwhile, is just a little garbled — clearly Sternberg wants a new stadium — though he is right to point out that it is a little weird to start offering the Rays owner public cash for a plan that he hasn’t even expressed an interest in.

Really, the mistake here is in St. Petersburg officials considering the Rays stadium situation to be the public’s problem at all: The city gave Sternberg an opt-out to go build a stadium elsewhere in the region if he wanted, and he couldn’t find anyone to give him the amount of money that he wanted, so he didn’t do it. Which is all fine, but it doesn’t make it St. Petersburg’s crisis.

The subtext of all this — which, to be fair, Solomon does spell out — is that St. Petersburg would like to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, which it can’t do until the Rays move out, so it can’t start planning until it knows what Sternberg will do. Except, you know, that the Rays’ lease expires in 2027, and they’re almost certainly not getting a stadium built much before that, so if Kriseman really wants to start planning a new development there he can just send Sternberg a “you’re evicted in eight years” notice, and everybody can plan just fine. Except Sternberg, but that’s not St. Petersburg’s problem — unless you think keeping the Rays is more important than redeveloping the stadium site, which seems to be not the point of this article?

Maybe it’s just the editor in me, but reading this suggests an entirely different, better article that would have begun by analyzing the situation the city of St. Pete is in: salivating over the stadium land, but also not wanting to be accused of driving the Rays out of the region. (It kind of heads in that direction, but then veers off and never quite makes it back.) Which is indeed a dilemma! And then you could ask Gerdes and Kriseman and other local officials what they think the city’s priority should be, and how much it would be worth to St. Pete to clear the stadium off of that land, and whether it’s better to build sooner or wait until the Rays have left and are no longer entitled to a cut of redevelopment rights, and suddenly you have a story where readers actually learn something more than just “city officials yell past each other.” I know it’s 2019 and that’s not how most journalism works anymore, but I really don’t think I’m asking that much, am I?

Friday roundup: Long Island residents yell at cloud over Isles arena, Calgary forgets to include arena in arena district plan, plus a reader puzzle!

It’s Friday (again, already) and you know what that means:

  • New York State’s Empire State Development agency held a series of three public hearings on the plan to build an Islanders arena on public land near Belmont Park racetrack (which the team would be getting at as much as a $300 million discount), and the response was decidedly unenthused: Speakers at the first hearing Tuesday “opposed to the project outnumbered those in favor of the plan by about 40 to one,” reports Long Island Business News, with State Sen. Todd Kaminsky joining residents in worrying that the arena will bring waves of new auto traffic to the town of Elmont, that there’s no real plan for train service to the arena, and that there’s no provision for community benefits to neighbors. Also a member of the Floral Park Police Department worried that the need for police staffing and more crowded roads would strain emergency services. Empire State Development, which is not a public agency but a quasi-public corporation run by the state, is expected to take all of this feedback and use it to draft an environmental impact statement for the project, which if history is any guide will just include some clauses saying “yeah, it’ll be bad for traffic” without suggesting any ways to fix it. I still want to see this plan from the Long Island Rail Road for how to extend full-time train service there, since it should involve exciting new ideas about the nature of physical reality.
  • Meanwhile in Phoenix, the final of five public hearings was held on that city’s $168 million Suns renovation plan, and “out of nine public comments, three involved questions, five voiced support and one was against the deal,” according to KJZZ, so clearly public ferment isn’t quite at such a high boil there. One thing I’d missed previously: The city claims that if it doesn’t do the renovations now with some contribution ($70 million) from Suns owner Robert Sarver, an arbitrator could interpret an “obsolescence clause” in the Suns’ lease to force the city to make the renovations on its own dime. I can’t find the Suns’ actual lease, but I think this just means that Sarver can get out of his lease early if an arbitrator determines the arena is obsolete [UPDATE: a helpful reader directed me to the appropriate lease document, and that is indeed exactly what it means], and he can already opt out of his lease in 2022, it’s pretty meaningless, albeit probably more of the “information” that helps convince people this is a good deal when they hear it. (Also important breaking news: A renovated Suns arena will save puppies! Quick, somebody take a new poll.)
  • Speaking of leases, the Los Angeles Angels are expected to sign a one-year extension on theirs with Anaheim, through 2020, while they negotiate a longer-term deal. It’s sort of tempting to wish that new Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu would have played hardball here — sign a long-term deal now or you can go play in the street when your lease runs out, like the Oakland Raiders — but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt in his negotiating plans. Though if this gives Angels owner Arte Moreno time to drum up some alternate city plans (or even vague threats a la Tustin) just in time to threaten Anaheim with them before the lease extension runs out, I reserve the right to say “I told you so.”
  • The Calgary Planning Commission issued a comprehensive plan for a new entertainment district around the site of the Flames‘ Saddledome, but forgot to include either the Saddledome or a new arena in it. No, really, they forgot, according to city councillor Evan Woolley: “It should’ve been identified in this document. It absolutely should have. Hopefully those amendments and edits will be made as they bring this forward to council.” The 244-page document (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, most of them are just full-page photos of people riding bicycles and the like) also neglects to include any financial details, beyond saying the district would be “substantially” funded by siphoning off new property taxes, “substantially” being one of those favored weasel words that can mean anything from “everything” to “some.” Hopefully that’ll be clarified as this is brought forward to council, too, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.
  • Here is a Raleigh News & Observer article reporting that the Carolina Hurricanes arena has had a $4 billion “economic impact” on the region over 20 years, citing entirely the arena authority that is seeking $200 million to $300 million in public money for upgrades to the place. No attempt to contact any other economists on whether “economic impact” is a bullshit term (it is) or even what they thought of the author of the report, UNC-Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton, who once said he “questions the sincerity” of any economist who doesn’t find a positive impact from sports venues. Actually, even that quote would have been good to include in the N&O article, so readers could have a sense of the bona fides of the guy who came up with this $4 billion figure. But why take time for journalism when you can get just as many clicks for stenography?
  • The San Francisco Giants‘ stadium has another new name, which just happens to be the same as the old new name of the basketball arena the Warriors are leaving across the bay, and I’m officially giving up on trying to keep track of any of this. Hey, Paul Lukas, when are you issuing “I’m Still Calling It Pac Bell” t-shirts?
  • Indy Eleven, the USL team that really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium so it can (maybe) join MLS, still really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium, and hotels, office and retail space, an underground parking structure, and apartments, all paid for via “[Capital Improvement Board president Melina] Kennedy wasn’t available to discuss the proposed financial structure of the project.” It would definitely involve kicking back future property taxes from the development (i.e., tax increment financing), though, so maybe Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir is hoping that by generating more property taxes that his development team then wouldn’t pay but instead use to pay off his own stadium costs, that would look better, somehow? I mean, he did promise to keep asking, so at least he’s a man of his word.
  • “At some point in time, there’s going to have to be a stadium solution,” declared the president of a pro sports team that plays in a stadium that just turned 23 years old. “If we don’t start thinking about it, we’ll wake up one day and have a stadium that’s not meeting the needs of the fans or the community.” Want to try to guess which team? “All of them” is not an acceptable answer! (Click here for this week’s puzzle solution.)

Poll: Phoenix residents think Suns arena subsidy is a good thing once you tell them it’s a good thing

As the Phoenix city council continues its month-long dog and pony show to convince constituents into changing their minds about spending $168 million in public money on Suns arena renovations being a terrible idea, they’re still stuck on the problem that Phoenix residents overwhelmingly think it truly is terrible. So the Greater Phoenix Chamber (of commerce) took matters into its own hands by conducting a new poll that claims to show that residents stop hating the deal so much once you explain to them that, no, really, it’s good:

The poll found that when respondents were given basic information about the deal and how the cost would be divided — $150 million paid by the city and $80 million paid by the Suns — 23 percent supported the deal and 52 percent opposed it, while a quarter had no opinion.

When they were given information about the city’s funding mechanism, arena events, the arena’s economic impact and the use of the arena by youth groups, respondents who supported the deal increased to 49 percent and those opposed shrank to a quarter, while 26 percent had no opinion — a 53-point shift.

That is indeed a large shift! What exactly was this “information about the city’s funding mechanism, arena events, the arena’s economic impact and the use of the arena by youth groups” that caused the scales to fall from their eyes?

So basically, once you tell Phoenix residents that this is existing tax money, not a new tax; that the city of Phoenix currently collects more revenue from the arena than it would spend on the renovation; and that arena renovations will create spinoff economic growth for local businesses, then suddenly it sounds like a great idea!

Except that that “information” ranges from mildly misleading to outright untrue. Yes, the money would come from existing hotel and car rental taxes, but if the city spends it on the Suns, it won’t have that money to spend on something else, so may have to raise other taxes if it wants to pay for that something else. Yes, the city gets revenues from the arena, but that would be true with or without renovations, and indeed even with or without the Suns, since the arena still hosts concerts and other things as well. And as for spinoff growth for local businesses, I have no clue where that claim came from, but it’s exceedingly dubious: Local businesses are already located near an arena, and would continue to be even if it’s renovated, so there’s no net benefit there; if anything, adding more amenities could encourage fans to spend more of their entertainment dollars inside the arena gates, which would be bad for neighboring businesses.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing looking solely at up-front expenses on a sports project and saying that’s insufficient, you need to look at revenues (and, for that matter, annual operations costs) as well — I’ve been harping on that for a long time now, in fact. But obviously, the chamber’s poll isn’t meant to take a more holistic look at arena costs and benefits and see how that influences public opinion. It’s better looked at as a campaign document: Which arguments in favor of a new Suns arena will convince people that this is a good idea? And given that city officials have already started rolling out some of these arguments — “it’s not really a tax!” was the first one last weekend — clearly they’re eager to make use of the new intelligence.

Anyway, I would be tempted to chalk all this up to the workings of democracy (in a world where democracy is controlled by whoever has the money to pay for publicity campaigns, anyway), except then I remember that this entire exercise is only taking place because Suns owner Robert Sarver needs to rush this whole thing through before the March election of a new mayor who is likely to think it’s a terrible idea. Maybe Sarver and the chamber and everybody should cut out the middleman, and instead spend their time and energy on lobbying the mayoral candidates to convince them that tax money isn’t really tax money? The chamber of commerce has a whole bunch of pie charts ready to go!

Raiders still moving everywhere and nowhere for 2019 season

This just in: The Oakland Raiders might move to San Diego for the 2019 season!

The Raiders have reached out and are said to be in discussions with the San Diego mayor’s office about the possibility of calling San Diego home for the 2019 season. This according to Dan Sileo of 97.3 The Fan in San Diego.

“I got this email last night,” said Sileo, noting it was from a somewhat well known San Diego attorney who he would not name. He then read the email aloud. ‘I wanted to let you to know off the record here . . . that I learned tonight (this was last night) that there have been discussions between the Raiders playing next season in San Diego with both the Mayor’s office and management of the Raiders.’”

No, no, wait, this just in: The Oakland Raiders might move to Tucson, Arizona for the 2019 season!

Tucson attorney Ali Farhand hopes to make a pitch to the NFL team to consider playing their 2019 home games at Arizona Stadium…

According to Farhang, he and University of Arizona president, Robert Robbins have reached out to the Raiders to discuss the possibility of relocating the franchise to the Sonoran desert.

Listen, guys: Just because two groups are “discussing” something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It’s like hot stove baseball rumors: Just because your team took a meeting with some free agent doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to sign him — it could mean they’re just kicking the tires. Likewise, it seems pretty likely that Raiders execs are meeting with anyone and everyone who has a stadium for rent this fall, if only to keep their options open.

That said, the Raiders presumably do have to play somewhere in 2019, so it’ll have to be either Oakland or Santa Clara or San Diego or Las Vegas or San Antonio or Tucson or London or any of a dozen other places. They just don’t seem any closer to figuring it out than they were when they declared back in September that they were throwing a hissy fit over Oakland’s antitrust suit and refusing to return there for one more lame-duck season. Maybe instead of trying to guess where the Raiders should play, we should be trying to handicap when they’ll figure out where they’ll play. How does May sound like as an over-under? I think I’ll take May.

Chicago USL stadium, music venues axed from Lincoln Yards plan by local alderman

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will not be bringing a new USL soccer team to that city, after alderman Brian Hopkins issued an open email declaring his opposition to the planned Lincoln Yards redevelopment project including either a soccer stadium or a proposed series of Live Nation music venues:

“I have informed planning officials at Sterling Bay, the developer of the proposed Lincoln Yards project, that I am not in support of a major sports and entertainment arena within either of their two planned development districts now under consideration,” Hopkins wrote in an email to his constituents this morning. “I have further requested that the identified site of the proposed stadium . . . be repurposed as open and recreational park space.

“In addition, I have informed Sterling Bay that I will not support the proposed ‘entertainment district’ within the Planned Development that was intended to be co-owned by LiveNation and comprised of multiple venues with seating capacities ranging from 3,000 to 6,000. The Entertainment District will be eliminated from a revised plan, and replaced by restaurants, theaters, and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site. LiveNation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues.”

Developers Sterling Bay later confirmed that it would be removing the stadium and the Live Nation venues from the plan.

The project is set to get at least $800 million in tax increment financing — i.e., kickbacks of future property taxes — which has been outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel’s favorite subsidy scheme. (Most of it is supposed to be used for “infrastructure” work, but we’ve seen before how that can easily bleed into costs that would normally be private developers’.) The big uproar over Lincoln Yards, though, has been over the soccer stadium that nobody wants, plus all those music venues run by a single corporate entity, right on the doorstep of a bunch of famed independent bars and small clubs that feared they would be driven out of business. Hopkins clearly heard those complaints, and used his power as local alderman to put the brakes on the aspects of the plan that had the most public opposition.

There’s still a long way to go to finalize revamped plans for the development project, and that’s still a hell of a lot of TIF money to be devoting to development that arguably wouldn’t do much to improve Chicago. (There would be some affordable housing, but $800 million worth?) For the purposes of this site, though, there won’t be a stadium involved, so watch your local Chicago listings — the desiccated husk of the Chicago Reader has done excellent reporting on Chicago’s TIFs — for further news of this story as it develops.

That crazy idea to put a minor-league soccer stadium next to the Mets park is probably just a crazy idea

Back when news broke last month of a possible USL franchise called Queensboro F.C. building (or having built for it, or god knows what) a 25,000-seat minor league soccer stadium next door to the New York Mets‘ ballpark, on a plot of land originally cleared for affordable housing, I promised a more in-depth report. And now my report is up, at Gothamist, and it is way more loopy than even I could have expected:

Queens borough president Melinda Katz — one of the two task force co-chairs — has begun stepping up talk of what could be the least likely endgame of all for Willets Point: a professional soccer stadium that would take up as much as 17 acres of the redevelopment site, to be built with uncertain funds, for a minor-league soccer team called Queensboro F.C. that does not, strictly speaking, exist…

“The city spent approximately $200 million in acquiring these properties. I don’t think they did that to build a soccer stadium,” says Hiram Monserrate, the disgraced former state senator turned district leader who is affiliated with the new coalition Nos Quedamos Queens. (Nos Quedamos Queens, in turn, is unaffiliated with the older Bronx group Nos Quedamos, best known for its successful advocacy for the Melrose Commons project, by all accounts the most effective project in city history at constructing affordable housing without displacing existing residents.) “I’m a soccer fan. But you can’t build a sports coliseum at the expense of meeting the needs of the people, and the people need housing.”

If you can’t get into a story that pits a former city councilperson–turned–borough president–turned district attorney candidate (and also baby mama to Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa) against a city councilperson–turned–state senator–turned–jailbird for misuse of campaign funds–turned–community activist, all over whether to devote public land that was cleared of small businesses at great city expense (said businesses immediately going bankrupt at their new location) to a stadium for a soccer team that doesn’t exist yet or even have an identified owner, then, well, I don’t know why you’re reading this site.

The upshot, for those of you who are in a hurry, seems to be that Katz and her allies are grandstanding on this soccer idea for unknown reasons, but nobody else seems super-psyched about it, so it probably won’t happen. But it could happen, maybe, if the Mets owners want it to happen, which they probably don’t care that much about, but they might. Hopefully I will get a chance to revisit this story, because it exactly the kind of batshit that is incredibly fun to write about, not to mention a great cautionary tale of the dangers of farming out public policy to quasi-public agencies and secret task forces and the like.

Coyotes keep sticking around Glendale, somehow this is supposed to be a threat?

Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway renewed his team’s lease on its Glendale home arena for another season on Friday, just as he did last year, and just as his predecessor Anthony LeBlanc did two years before that. This would seem to put the final nail in the coffin of any notion that the team has lots of other cities eager to throw money at it for an arena, as LeBlanc insisted more than three years ago, and so maybe Glendale can ratchet down its threat level a bit from DEFCON 1.

At least, it would seem so to me, but clearly I do not understand the modern journalism, because here is how the Arizona Republic reported it:

But a one-year lease does nothing to secure the team in the city, or the state, for the long term.

The team has looked to Phoenix and the East Valley in recent years, and there is speculation that the franchise will leave the state altogether, perhaps for Houston, if it doesn’t get the investment it’s looking for.

Perhaps for Houston. Not that Houston isn’t a big city — it is, I’ve checked! — but if Barroway or LeBlanc or anyone had really wanted to move to Houston, they could have done so anytime in that last three years, so this is hardly some new looming threat. In fact, if you click through that Republic link, you get to a Houston Chronicle story theorizing that now that the Coyotes are moving to the Central Division it would make it easier for them to move to Houston, which is one of those typical fan conspiracy theories that ignores the fact that no team in any sport has ever moved somewhere just to make divisional alignments more convenient, so come on, seriously.

The Coyotes absolutely could move out of Glendale, and even out of Arizona altogether, and maybe it would even arguably be a good idea, given its perpetually poor attendance figures. (A good idea for its owners and the NHL, I mean, not for poor Coyotes fans who’ve suffered through this mess and then would end up with bupkis.) But the team re-upping on a new one-year lease is not a crisis, it’s a sign of an emerging new equilibrium. And talk of putting money into arena upgrades to lure the team owners into signing a longer-term lease, as Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps has suggested, is only worth it if the city can get a long extension in exchange for not too much in upgrade cash — and, ideally, increased rent to help pay back the upgrade costs from new team revenues.

Trying to negotiate something that can work for all sides is always a good thing. Just so long as you keep in mind that at the end of the day you can always walk away from the table if it’s too rich for your blood, especially since it seems like the worst-case scenario, in the short term at least, is likely to be more of these annual Arizona Republic scare headlines when the team renews its lease for yet another year.

Phoenix officials kick off monthlong campaign to whine directly at local residents about how great a new arena would be

On Saturday, the Phoenix city council held the first of its public hearings on the Suns arena proposal, part of a series scheduled after officials were chastened by the massive public disdain for the $168 million subsidy plan. So then, of course, they mostly lectured residents about how dumb they were to pass up such an amazing deal:

Christine Mackay, director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Phoenix, presented the deal as an inevitable move necessary to foster continued downtown development and economic growth. She credited the arena with transforming the downtown area, generating an annual economic impact of $182 million and attracting other businesses to the area.

And:

Earlier in the week, Mackay told the Phoenix Business Journal she wanted to clear up misunderstandings about who owns the arena and how renovations would be funded.

“This is not a tax on our citizens,” Mackay said. “I’m looking forward to get these facts out.”

Ah, the old “but only tourists pay these taxes!” argument. This is, for one thing, untrue — car-rental taxes are in fact often paid by locals, who are renting a car for temporary use or whatever — but more to the point, beside the point: It’s money the city could be spending on something else if it weren’t giving it to Suns owner Robert Sarver.

Mackay’s other argument in favor of the subsidy is that the city owns the arena, and so is responsible for upgrades. Okay, but the city doesn’t manage the arena or earn any additional profits if it makes more from either NBA games or concerts — that’s all Sarver. So if you own a building that is rented out by a private business and you make a bunch of upgrades that will solely benefit your tenant, you should ask them to repay you via higher rent, right? But while the Suns’ rent is projected to increase from $1.5 million to $4 million in a renovated arena, some of that is just plain old price inflation having nothing to do with renovations, and regardless, an extra $2.5 million a year would take 67 years to repay the city’s expense. (In present value terms, the city would never ever be made whole, because rent payments 67 years in the future are worthless, if the NBA even exists then.)

Anyway, from what reporting there has been, it sounds like attendees at the session (all 150 of them) were split about whether they bought Mackay’s arguments or not, which is just yet another unscientific poll. I’m honestly not sure what the point is of this monthlong series of dog-and-pony shows, other than to persuade swing-vote councilmembers that look, it’s cool, when we present our Powerpoints to the masses, some of them agree with us. I mean, I am sure that’s the point, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work, but then, I do not pretend to comprehend the uncanny ways of the Phoenix city council.