A LEAGUE OF OUR OWN?
Sometimes, the idea of something, and the thing itself, aren’t always the same. In other words, the idea is much rosier than the reality. For example, many people like the idea of owning a boat rather than the reality of actually maintaining one. Many like the idea of eating healthier or exercising, but not so much the reality of changing your diet or going to the gym.
Some might say the idea of having an NBA G League team in Shreveport is much more appealing than the reality of what it actually costs to have one. For example, College Park, Ga., is spending between $20 and $40 million to build an arena for the Atlanta Hawks’ G league team – and that’s funded with taxpayer dollars in a city with just 15,000 residents.
The Washington Wizards are also building an arena for their G League team with taxpayer dollars at a whopping cost of $65 million.
And now the city of Shreveport is considering building a $25 million arena with taxpayer dollars for a G League team owned by the New Orleans Pelicans. In a news release, Mayor Ollie Tyler said building this arena will be important as a “significant economic driver in job creation and attracting outside tourism for the city’s future success.”
Many would agree with her, and may even call the arena an “investment” in our area’s future. Perhaps it is, but the University of Maryland has studied the economic impacts of professional sports franchises and stadiums and found the following to be true: “No matter what cities or geographical areas are examined, no matter what estimators are used, no matter what model specifications are used, and no matter what variables are used, articles published in peer-reviewed economics journals contain almost no evidence that professional sports franchises and facilities have a measurable economic impact on the economy.” Ouch.
In St. Tammany Parish, they were considering building an arena for the Pelicans’ G League team, too (like us), but they looked at their numbers and said, “Essentially, we have $22 million in costs and $15 million in funding. Building, or retrofitting, a venue for a basketball team is unfortunately not a priority at this time.”
Some in Shreveport feel that same way – and it’s not because they are not basketball fans, or they’re just stuck in their old ways and don’t want to do anything new. Instead, it’s a matter of economic priorities in a city where the tax base is shrinking and there are simply bigger fish to fry first, so to speak.
But if you like fish like I do – especially fried catfish – as much as you love basketball, let’s find a way to make this G League a reality. Let's not use taxpayer dollars to do it, though.
Instead, let’s do it with a Kickstarter campaign. For $25 million. That’s right. And why not?
You see, Kickstarter.com is the largest crowd-funding Web site in the world, where entrepreneurs have raised millions of dollars selling concepts of products – which haven’t even been created yet (like the new arena) – from thousands of supporters who want to see those concepts come to fruition.
If Mayor Tyler uses the crowd-funding model from Kickstarter to bring her arena concept to reality, and 25,000 supporters in Caddo, Bossier, Webster and DeSoto were to purchase two $500 ticket packages for the new Pelicans’ G League team (entitling you to special ticket prices, discounted gear, etc.), we will have paid for the new arena up front, and that’s before any monies are negotiated for naming rights, sponsorships, concessions and dining, club seating and suites, or rental income throughout the year.
Of course, many of the supporters won’t necessarily be huge basketball fans who will go to every game, but they still want to support the idea, without wanting to saddle their children and grandchildren with debt for decades to come.
So, yes, crowd-funding (and not taxpayer-funding) of an arena is worth a shot here – from the free-throw line.
If it’s done right, it’ll be “nothing but net.”
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.