Cavs owner wants $70m in upgrades to just-upgraded arena, county official says “arenas get old fast”

Want to see a public official carrying water for the private sports owner trying to shake his agency down for money? Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish has you covered:

Budish has been discussing with the Cleveland Cavaliers how to pay for half of a $140 million project to expand the [Quicken Loans Arena]’s footprint and build a new glass exterior since taking office in January 2015.

The arena, which cost $140 million to build, opened in 1994.

“It is one of the oldest arenas in the league, which is hard for some of us to believe because it seems like it was just built,”  Budish said in an interview with “But the useful life of arenas is not considered to be all that long.”

Nice use of the passive voice there, Armond! The useful life of arenas “is not considered” to be long by sports team owners, much in the same way that the useful life of Maseratis is not considered to be long by people who can afford to buy a new one every year. (Or in this case, to have someone else buy them a new one every year.) As sports economist Rod Fort told me 15 years ago when I asked him the expected shelf life of a new stadium or arena, “I don’t see anything wrong, from an owner’s perspective, with the idea of a new stadium every year.”

And neither, it’s increasingly clear, do sports team owners. And elected officials are largely buying it. Though given that the previous Cuyahoga County executive inadvertently spread a rumor that LeBron James was worth $500 million to the local economy, the bar is pretty low for that office.

Anyway, we already knew that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wanted more arena upgrade money on top of the arena upgrade money he just got in 2014, but now we have a price tag on it: $70 million. At least until the next upgrade request, which at this rate should come around 2018.

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14 comments on “Cavs owner wants $70m in upgrades to just-upgraded arena, county official says “arenas get old fast”

  1. And I am sure part of the costs will come from me whether I know it or not in the form of state and federal subsidies and taxes. And I never plan on going to a Cavs game. I detour around Cleveland on the way to Canada.

  2. Your state is getting incalculable benefits from having NBA basketball, Mary.

  3. “Incalculable” being one of those excellent words that can mean both very large and very small.

  4. To be fair, the place will be burnt down this summer by angry Donald Trump supporters, so they’ll need some money to rebuild.

  5. Ah Dan Gilbert… the same guy being sued by the Feds for mortgage fraud in Detroit. He’s now doing what most billionaires do, use their money to buy support from the policos. But don’t expect the Cleveland media to do any investigative journalism because just like Detroit (both of Detroit’s daily newspapers and one of its TV stations are tenants in Gilbert-owned buildings), the Cleveland media are too intimidated by the ominous eye of Gamblin’ Dan.

  6. I find it ironic that most of the Cavs recent success is derived from being bad (and drafting Lebron) than the quality of any building they’ve ever played in.

    In a just world, Craig Ehlo block’s Jordan’s shot.

  7. Unfortunately, Budish is right. I’m amazed the talk in Cleveland is about a renovation and not a new building, particulary in light of the comments made by Mark Cuban in Dallas last week. They don’t build arenas like they did in the past.

  8. They build them just like they did in the past. They just don’t build expectations the same.

  9. I don’t find anything wrong with the idea of a new stadium every year either. Even billionaires need goals. It’s so easy to buy a few aldermen, err, alderpersons, and a mayor here and there and get a new publicly funded arena. Asking for new ones more often? Well, we have to up the game to keep things interesting.

    I love the smell of public stadium cash in the morning!

  10. What is wrong with this country? You know, students are graduating from college with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, so our response is to build more arenas? I suggest our priorities are twisted.

  11. “Budish has been discussing with the Cleveland Cavaliers how to pay for half of a $140 million project to expand the [Quicken Loans Arena]’s footprint”

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s hilarious that they are discussing how to pay for expanding the QUICKEN LOANS Arena? I mean your building is sponsored by a loan company.

  12. Borrowing money still doesn’t answer how to pay for it, though. Even if millions of college students with their first credit cards don’t understand that.

  13. Well, if there was actual economic value, presumably the Cavs could pay back their loan (or even their Quicken Loan) with the incremental revenue.

    But who are we kidding. Sports arenas don’t operate by the normal rules of borrowing and repayment, where “ask the county to pay for it” isn’t a legitimate answer for “how am I going to afford the new house I want”. The juxtaposition of the name of the arena and the financing of the arena just makes the absurd especially hilarious in this case.

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