Weekly Review 5/17/13

Comparing Soda and Stadiums\n\nWord came from the Sun Times this week that the city will fund a new basketball arena near McCormick Place for a private university from Lincoln Park.  For those of you who took the mayor’s denial of stadium subsidies to Tom Ricketts for the Wrigley Field renovation to mean that the city was getting out of the sports business, buy cialis treatment well, decease surprise!—your hopes have been dashed.\n\nWait, it gets worse.  This time, besides raising the hotel tax rate, which history tells us is not enough to fund the construction and debt, it looks like the mayor will be throwing TIF funds at the project.  That’s taxpayer money that would otherwise go to schools.  In case you missed it, Emanuel is attempting to close 54 Chicago schools, affecting black communities almost exclusively, due to a “budget shortfall.”  The Chicago Teachers Union is fighting back on behalf of affected students.\n\n\nThe mayor claims the stadium project will create 10,000 jobs—a made up number that I’m sure he won’t tell us how he arrived at.  But sure, great!  Considering the state of our schools, let’s hope that none of those jobs will require an education.\n\nAfter the Sun Times broke this story, Crain’s Danny Ecker did some legwork for this piece, which raises fair questions about the arena proposal. At the end of this article Ecker refers to the arena as a potential “loss leader,” or a publicly financed venue “that may not turn a profit itself but perhaps catalyzes the surrounding area”\n\nI started digging around to learn more about stadiums and convention centers as “loss leaders.”  Ronald Wirtz of the Minneapolis Fed, in a 2001 paper for fedgazette, states that the loss leader angle is “often inflated and oversold” by boosters.  Not surprising.  But I love how the loss leader concept for stadiums is described here:\n

Facilities rarely repay their construction costs, still many are fortunate to simply cash-flow in a given year. Rather, these facilities are designed to be spending magnets for the city—community loss leaders, if you will, similar to the way a grocery chain underprices soda to get people into the store. Once they’ve got you in the store for soda—or in this case, in the city for a ballgame or a trade show—you’ll likely buy additional items to make up for the store’s initial loss on soda.

\nBottles of soda and sports arenas, yeah, they’re like, pretty much the same thing!  Who comes up with this stuff?\n\nAnyways, the arena announcement included the obligatory gathering of propagandists, and here they are, gathered around a podium in a video clip of the “McPier Arena” press conference.  And just in case you don’t trust our mayor to tell you the truth, he brought along an ordained priest to help sell it.\n\nFor me this is the Rahm Emanuel legacy project that Wrigley Field never would have been: Emanueltown—an arena and convention center flanked by hotels and restaurants and a casino in the South Loop.  It’ll be something to remember the mayor by before he rides off into the sunset that is the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election or is chased out of town by angry villagers with pitchforks, I’m not sure which—leaving us with a stadium lemon, lots of debt service obligations, and worse social problems than when Chicagoans vaulted him into office.\n\nMore worthwhile commentary on this:\n\nTravis Waldron – Why Is Chicago Devoting $125 Million To Build A Basketball Arena For A Private University?\n\nNeil deMause – Emanuel’s proposed DePaul arena would use $125m in city money, sap schools budget\n\n \n\nOn Other Notes\n\nWith all this talk of sports and politics, let’s not forget about the Cubs.  The message of Ricketts’ PR website is not “Support my plan so I can make a lot of money!\”—which would be more apropos—it’s “Save Wrigley Field!”  By the way, this is not news.\n\n\”With few exceptions, a sports team that doesn’t field a mascot for drawing casual fans just isn’t with it,\” says Forbes.  Translation: teams need a mascot to draw people who don’t care that much but have money; people who can pay extra for amenities like, say, mascots.  And apparently in all of sports, Benny the Bull does this most effectively.\n\nThis is a couple of weeks old but I just found it this week.  Gary Ashwill tells us about a lost film starring heavyweight champion Jack Johnson that included scenes of Rube Foster and his American Giants of the first Negro National League playing ball.\n\nFinally, Tom Keiser’s “Sportsflicks” series is one of the Classical’s more sensational attributes.  This week he looks at a 1937 movie starring a relatively anonymous John Wayne as a chicken farmer turned hockey pro. – Sportsflicks: The Greatest Hockey Movie John Wayne Ever Made\n\nUpdate: Over at the Third City, Benny Jay has trouble containing his inner voice while congratulating the Miami Heat on their victory over the Bulls.\n\nUpdate: Deadspin’s Jonathan Mahler considers Grant Hill’s career a cautionary tale and laments that \”People are treating Derrick Rose’s body like it belongs to them\”; this essay from today’s Chicago Tribune is a case in point.

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