The Los Angeles Clippers arena battle is a weird one: Team owner Steve Ballmer says he’ll pay for the arena himself (yay) but wants the right to put up more ad signage than would normally be legally allowed, might want to use eminent domain to seize some property, negotiated with the Inglewood city council without telling anyone it was about a Clippers arena in apparent violation of open meetings laws, and is getting sued by both Madison Square Garden and some local citizens over the project (all boo, to varying degrees). All of which sort of explains why Ballmer is looking to sweeten the pot by offering to loan $100 million toward public benefits for Inglewood residents as part of the deal:
Such benefits, presented Tuesday at a meeting of Inglewood’s council by city manager Artie Fields, would include “up to $75 million in low-interest loans for the acquisition, preservation, or development of affordable and mixed-income housing in Inglewood,” according to the team. Other proposals include more than $12 million for youth and education programs, up to $6 million toward improvements of its public library and financial assistance for renters and first-time homeowners in the city.
This is all a yay, though it’s worth noting that the Los Angeles Times story on it didn’t bother to answer (or even ask) the question of whether this money would come out of Ballmer’s pocket or from some cut of arena revenues or taxes, or who would repay the loans or how. (Hey, L.A. Times! If you’re going to put up one of the strictest paywalls in all of journalism, at least use some of the resulting cash to give your reporters room to report!)
Still, it’s at least something more than most team owners do as part of arena deals, so it’s better than a kick in the head. Yet again, we’re seeing how the ease of getting voter initiatives on the ballot in West Coast states forces sports franchises to actually offer reasonable deals rather than just asking elected officials for wads of cash behind voters’ backs; democracy might not solve everything, but still has its benefits.