Cuyahoga County to spend extra $40m on arena repairs after Cavaliers blew through first $22m in record time

It’s Wednesday, so it must be time for Cuyahoga County to spend more money on the Cavaliers‘ arena:

Cuyahoga County Council is considering whether to issue $40 million in bonds to reimburse the Cleveland Cavaliers for repairs the county is required to cover under the team’s lease agreement on Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Also under consideration is a measure that would re-finance $40 million of the $60 million in bonds sold by the county in 2015 as an advance on revenues from the county’s so-called sin tax, which was extended 20 years by a 2014 vote.

That’s a lot of words, but careful readers will zero in on the two numbers: $40 million and $40 million, which added together come to $80 million. It’s not really $80 million in new spending — one set of bonds would be new, the other merely refinanced — but it is a significant chunk of change for an arena that has already gotten a whole lot of chunks in recent years.

The reason for the new spending proposals, as explained in a not very clear article at Cleveland.com, is that the county agreed to cover “major capital repairs” in the team’s lease, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert (who is reportedly doing better after his recent stroke) has already blown through $22 million in county tax funds while also fronting $40 million of his own money, for such things as “the replacement of the heating and cooling system, retractable seating, sports lights, ADA-compliant restrooms, and other things.” Some of that sounds a bit dodgy as required maintenance — is that replacing worn-out retractable seating and sports lights, or upgrading them? and WTF are “sports lights,” anyway? — but if the lease says the county has to pay for them, there’s not much the county can do about that, hence the rush to pass another $40 million bond issue.

The main problem here is that the county appears to have either seriously overestimated how fast tax revenues would come in, or seriously underestimated how much capital expenses the arena would rack up so quickly. Given that the county previously said it would be using taxes on Cavs playoff tickets to help pay off its existing arena upgrade bonds, and the Cavs currently just finished year one of an umpteen-year rebuild following the departure of LeBron James, I’m putting my money on … you know, probably both.


2 comments on “Cuyahoga County to spend extra $40m on arena repairs after Cavaliers blew through first $22m in record time

  1. In deals like this who decides when capital repairs need to be made? Is there some arbiter who approves that? A heating and cooling system could be repaired for many years before you absolutely had to put in a new one so who decides it needs to be done right now? (The place was built in 1994 so if this is the original system it might very well need replacing; if this isn’t the original system you could probably argue it doesn’t.)

    • I know if I had a fund of free money for capital repairs on my house I would find a lot more of the maintenance issues that “need action immediately”!