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March 05, 2008
Illinois floats Wrigley reno plan to be paid for by ... hey, look over there!
The head of the sports authority that wants to buy Wrigley Field from the Chicago Cubs says renovating the 94-year-old ballpark would cost - hang onto your hats - as much as $400 million, but could be accomplished "at no cost" to taxpayers. How would this be accomplished? Let authority chair Jim Thompson count the ways:
- Team lease payments to pay off several hundred million dollars in tax-exempt bonds that would be floated by the state. To meet IRS rules, these would likely have to be crafted as "payments in lieu of property taxes," or PILOTs.
- The sale of naming rights to the ballpark, though Thompson admitted, "My guess is that whoever wanted to pay for naming rights would have to keep the name Wrigley Field as part of it, which could reduce the value."
- A special taxing district around the stadium in which sales-tax money going to the state would be frozen at current rates, with any new revenues being siphoned off and used for renovation costs.
If you're scoring at home, that's two sources of revenue that actually come from taxpayers (albeit one mostly from federal taxpayers) and one that even Thompson doesn't think will raise much money. It will perhaps come as no surprise that Thompson was the Illinois governor who masterminded the Chicago White Sox' stadium deal in the late '80s, which ended up being paid for entirely by state taxpayers.