When team owners are looking for hundreds of millions of dollars in stadium or arena funds, they’ll often offer to throw a few million dollars at some community improvement to help grease the skids. So it was with the Orlando Magic, which build five community gyms as part of its deal to get its new $480 million arena in 2007.
Only one problem, the Orlando Sentinel has discovered:
However, these new gyms are also going to cost taxpayers twice as much to run as the county originally estimated, a review of budget records shows. Instead of breaking even, the five facilities are expected to generate a $1.25 million annual deficit to operate, once user fees are balanced against staffing and other costs.
After-school and summer programs at other facilities would continue to be capped or shrink to offset most of the steeper operating costs at the Magic gyms.
“The community was told these were going to be a bonus and not take away anything,” Commissioner Ted Edwards said. “The residents didn’t get what they were promised.”
Apparently one county commissioner, Tiffany Moore Russell, warned about this possibility back when the deal was first being discussed, but she was outvoted. She was not immediately available to the Sentinel, it seems, for “I told you sos.”