I know this site is turning into Media Crit 101 some days, but 1) that is one of the things I do, and 2) the media coverage really deserves it lately. Like, try on for size the article from yesterday’s Lincoln Journal Star on Lincoln’s new arena (no pro teams present, just concerts and University of Nebraska basketball) that begins thusly:
Pinnacle Bank Arena has a mixed report financially for its first year.
And what’s the mix, exactly? The good: The restaurant, hotel, and car rental taxes that are going to pay off the arena bonds are coming in faster than expected so far. That’s reassuring in that not having enough money to pay off sports construction bonds can have dire consequences, but it’s not exactly a good financial report on the arena itself: It just means that people are renting more cars in Lincoln, which has nothing to do with the arena’s books per se.
And how are the arena’s books doing? That’s the bad news:
Run by a national management company under contract with the city, the arena did not meet its first year budget expectations, needing a $465,000 boost from the [West Haymarket Joint Public Agency] to break even.
The JPA already was providing $285,000 in pouring rights revenue — money beverage distributors pay to sell drinks at arena concession stands — to the city for arena operations, bringing total JPA contributions to $750,000 for the fiscal year…
In addition, the city gave the area a $500,000 cash advance, which it must repay by 2016.
So actually running the place is losing so much money that the city has had to kick in more than a million dollars just to keep it breaking even — and that’s even if you don’t count the cost of building the arena in the first place, which is being covered by taxes on all those restaurant-eaters and hotel-renters.
This is, frankly, not a “mixed” report, but a pretty dismal one. It’d really be nice if someday, someone other than me would lead off a story on an arena losing money hand over fist with a line like “The new arena is losing money hand over fist,” but I guess that’s not the kind of thing one says out loud in the polite society that is journalism.