Columbus hid $48m in Crew stadium subsidies in “Other Projects” budget

For some somewhat better journalism, let’s head over to Columbus, Ohio, where the Columbus Dispatch reports that the $50 million the city had promised toward a new Crew soccer stadium will actually amount to nearly twice that, thanks to a secret second budget:

Starting early this year, as city department heads planned for the stadium, documents show they didn’t have one budget, but two: costs included in the $50 million and those outside of it, spread across various departmental budgets and funding sources…

In one spreadsheet circulated among city officials in March titled “Updated Project Budget and Timeline,” City Auditor Megan Kilgore tallied up what at the time were the project costs — almost $98 million, split between two “buckets”: ”$50 million” and “Other Projects.”

“This is our best effort at keeping track of projects,” Kilgore said in the March email to which she attached the spreadsheet. “The above will dictate how we continue to push expenditures that EXCEED the above amounts into the ‘Other Projects — outside of $50 million bucket’ pot.”

The “Other Projects” budget includes such items as building a 600-car parking garage for the stadium and moving electrical lines underground, items that a city spokesperson insisted would be happening with or without the stadium. (Burying the electrical lines, for example, has been assigned to the costs of a Chipotle Mexican Grill headquarters a half-mile away.)

This is all some great reporting that required digging through piles of public records requests, and could have been improved only by including the total public cost of the project to city and county taxpayers: The Dispatch itself previously reported this as $140 million plus land costs, and while I got $130 million with my adding machine, this would still mean the total public cost of the project is now more like $178 million. Or, if you prefer, $130 million, plus $48 million for a really vital Chipotle headquarters.

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2 comments on “Columbus hid $48m in Crew stadium subsidies in “Other Projects” budget

  1. So now we’re starting to see what “Save the Crew” really means…

    Really though, it’s always cool to see newspapers lifting the veil in this way vis-a-vis public funding for local sports teams, especially in one- or two-horse towns. The papers in these types of places (including Orlando, where I live now) tend to serve as an extra propaganda arm for the local teams

    I understand why they would go that route because pro sports are often the main (if not the only) source of identity for their entire market; that doesn’t make the “in the tank” nature of the coverage any more savory, though.

  2. At least infrastructure spending on a Chipotle HQ makes some economic sense: hundreds of well-paid, tax-paying employees who will work there full-time, not seventeen days a year. But using that spending as camouflage to cover embarrassing expenditures elsewhere is just sad.

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