Cavs owner promises to fix some basketball courts, Cleveland council says, “Okay, here’s $70m”

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert finally blinked yesterday, offering up some long-awaited concessions in exchange for $70 million in public renovation money for his team’s arena. And what, exactly, is the billionaire mortgage tycoon offering?

  • The Cavaliers have pledged that the portion of the admission tax that goes to the city’s general fund will never fall below the portion directed toward debt service on the upgrades. If that happens, the Cavaliers will write the city a check for the difference.
  • The Cavaliers have agreed to refurbish the basketball floors in city recreation centers, more than 20 in total. After the announcement the city confirmed that the Cavs will also refurbish high school basketball courts in Cleveland public high schools, as well.
  • Additionally, the Cavaliers announced it will donate all admissions revenues from its road-game watch parties at The Q during the NBA playoffs to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Over the last two seasons, those watch parties have raised more than $1 million from admissions that was donated to several charities.

That is pretty weak tea, as the Cleveland Scene points out: The admission-tax money is already slated to go to the general fund, so this is just locking in the dollar amounts; and the road-game watch party money was already being donated to charity, so this just directs it to one specific charity. That leaves just the promise to “refurbish” 65 community and high-school basketball courts, which comes with no dollar value or specifics — as the Scene puts it, “It’s unclear if the Cavs will build new courts entirely or just, like, buff them.”

Still, that was enough to get the city council to approve the plan by a 12-5 vote just a couple of hours later. The Greater Cleveland Congregations and the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, which had pushed for more substantial contributions to community programs by Gilbert, could still seek to overturn the vote via a public referendum, but there’s been no announcement of that as of yet.

If the decision stands, one of Cleveland’s richest businessmen just got $70 million in public funds to renovate his basketball team’s home arena, just a few months after he got $57 million in public funds to use for other upgrades, all for an arena built with $100 million in public funds in 1994. Turns out when you’re a rich dude, it’s not just subprime mortgages that are the gift that keeps on giving.

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6 comments on “Cavs owner promises to fix some basketball courts, Cleveland council says, “Okay, here’s $70m”

  1. Won’t cost more than a couple K to buff and seal each court. In return a huge sign with The Cavs taking credit for the court refurbish will be erected at the prime focal point in each recreation center.

  2. one correction: he is a Detroit businessman that just got $70 million in public funds from Cleveland. not that it is a big difference, but something about his coming into Cleveland getting the image of some great local guy pisses me off. He is a special kind of opportunist carpetbagger that has lied his way to getting the entire city to give him millions upon millions.

  3. Greed is a heckuva drug. Any normal person would INSTANTLY have agreed to do far more than that if they were getting $70 million. It took arm-twisting to get Gilbert to cave. And you just know that privately he’s put out by having to do even that minimal amount.

  4. In other news, the Cavs are instituting a basketball court maintenance mentorship program that will connect area youths with training that will enable them to apply for jobs maintaining NBA courts and other hardwood surfaces.

      1. Better yet they’ll make the kids pay to participate. Just like those job fairs where you pay to find out none of the area pro sports teams are hiring right now.

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