Dan Gilbert may actually manage to blow up his $70m Cavs arena subsidy deal after all

When last we checked in on Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s $70 million big glass wall subsidy, it looked set for passage, with a majority of the city council set to approve it and opponents mostly just demanding some kind of fund for “community benefits” to be added. Now, though, it appears to be … “falling apart” is probably overstating it, but definitely hitting a major speed bump. Detangling this informative yet slightly convoluted article from the Cleveland Scene, we get:

  • After the arena renovations bill passed the Cleveland city council 11-6 in a preliminary vote last week, it was expected to get final approval this week. Instead, city council president Kevin Kelley pulled it at the last minute, saying “some members requested more time to discuss it.”
  • One possibility is that the Cavs are concerned about getting a 12-vote supermajority, which would allow them to avoid a public referendum as well. Except that, according to the Scene, it would only allow them to avoid a referendum if the city were selling the bonds, and it’s the county, so, what the hell?
  • Gilbert is so desperate to turn more votes, for whatever reason, that he personally called Ward 2 councilmember Zack Reed to ask what he could do to win his support. Reed answered that he wanted a community benefits fund, a la what Greater Cleveland Congregations had proposed, and Gilbert presumably wouldn’t give in, because Reed remains opposed (and now publicly gripey about having to spend 40 minutes on the phone with the Cavs owner to no good end).

While it still seems likely that the arena subsidy will be passed by the council eventually, there’s a lot more grumbling from councilmembers than a couple of weeks ago, which isn’t going to help this thing win if it goes to a referendum as now appears it will. Gilbert, meanwhile, is apparently refusing to budge on the one thing that would make his opposition melt, which is to throw a few million dollars at some community groups as the price of getting $70 million in public funds. If so, that’ll be some quality grasping-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory stuff there — though given that this is a guy who responded to federal government charges that his loan company had lied about borrowers’ creditworthiness by countersuing the government and then having his suit immediately dismissed, playing hardball to spite your face does seem to be a bit of a Gilbert character trait.

18 comments on “Dan Gilbert may actually manage to blow up his $70m Cavs arena subsidy deal after all

  1. “If so, that’ll be some quality grasping-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory stuff there…”

    You can do it, Dan! We BELIEVE. :-)

  2. Dan — don’t stand on principle. Just payoff the shakedown artists (sorry, I meant to type “assuage the concerns of the community groups”) and you can go collect your cash.

  3. When the extortion activists went to Detroit it became personal. I hate to defend the billionaire but these extortion activists are the reason my taxes in Chicago are the highest in the country.

    • If you mean your property taxes, they’re mostly high because the city has created so many TIF districts where taxes are kicked back to the developer that the burden of actually running the city falls on the relative handful of properties that are left.

      • Omg , you know what you talk of. A big chunk of that Tif money is used to buy off the alderman and special interest groups that like to protest on a drop of a dime. They represent that third of Chicago that pay next to zero in property taxes but get 80% of city services. While living in new multi level townhomes. Guess who pays to cut their grass , shovel snow and remove empty skittles rappers .

    • Really, how dare anybody demand some cash go towards the community–it all just needs to be handed to the rich sports owners with no questions asked. What an insult to Gilbert that he doesn’t already have the $70 million in hand.

      • Have you been to Cleveland ?. He only asked for 70 million to keep them on the Map !

        • He’s a billionaire. He can afford to print new maps if they get left off. And he can revamp his own arena. If you want to send him a big fat check feel free.

  4. The “extortion activists” are the billionaire developers getting millions of dollars of public money in the name of “creating jobs” and “kickstarting the local economy”. The cities and counties and states then spend years paying off the toys of the rich while all the benefits accrue to the rich.

  5. Thank you, Ted.

    I have no idea why people are throwing terms like “shakedown” or “extortion” at anyone other than Dan Gilbert and his crew.

    Greater Cleveland Congregations has explicitly renounced any receipt, or oversight, of money from any form of the equity fund that they advocate. (Compare with basically everyone who has promoted “the Q Transformation.” Employees of the Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena, contractors expecting business, small vanity charities kept afloat by the Cavs for occasions like this, etc.)

    GCC recommends that any CBA be administered by a transparent, independent body accountable to the public. (Compare with the secretive, manipulative and hostile appraoch of “the Q Transformation’s” promoters.)

  6. Again I don’t mean to come to the defense of Gilbert , but if the city always says yes to MLB & NFL he would be an idiot not to try. Also cities like Cleveland , Columbus etc have stay relevant before they become Detroit. Those political extortionist love money for that sub culture of America that milks the system and never takes responsibility for the fact that they are lazy free loaders that rather get high each day than get up early and go to work.

    • So just how does giving millions of taxpayer dollars to an already extremely wealthy person save cities from decline?I live in Portland, a pretty ‘relevant’ and ‘on the map’ kind of city, and we give comparatively little public money to Major league team owners.

      • In a perfect USA cities and counties wouldn’t be allowed to pick winners and losers. Cleveland or that county have already committed themselves through history to subsidize their teams. All I am saying is that if you give it to the other teams in town that bring you zero in international advertising , how do you not give it to a team featuring one of the top 5 superstars in the world. People know where Cleveland is because of that team. That’s worth something !

        • And they will continue to know about Cleveland because of LeBron whether or not the Cavs get their public subsidy, which will mostly benefit Gilbert long after LeBron is gone. Are you saying that tax breaks should be a reward for already having made a city famous? If so, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen have a rather large bill to present to Portland…

          • Unfortunately the average person doesn’t recognize those two , but pretty much everyone knows who Lebron is.

        • Corporate welfare shouldn’t exist ! But if government gives the Catholic church billions the other religious organizations would sue and the Pastors that represent ” The Community ” would be looking for their CUT !