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Comments

Ed Heath

I wonder where the Trib got the million dollar figure?

Sam M

I've seen the $1 million tossed around quite a bit in older stories about the marathon, particularly back when it was getting cancelled around 2003-2005. Seems like the bulk of the money involved overtime for police, other kinds of staffing, etc.

I am not really sure to what extent the city ate all this money, as the event used to have a sponsor. I think maybe UPMC or one of the banks? I am not clear on whether the city paid the cool million on top of that, or if that was the total.

Maybe we could make Don Barden pay $7.5 million a year for it. That way we could have 7.5 marathons. Imagine the economic revitalization that would ensue.

Chad

For the eight-billionth time, Sam -- you don't have to like it, and you don't have to agree with it, but that money from the state is coming from an economic development fund fueled by gaming money. We can -- yet again -- argue over whether building an arena is a wise use of development money, but that money can not, by freaking state law, be used for public transit. Or for the Pittsburgh marathon. Or any ol' thing you want.

And even if it could -- which it can't -- this is an apples and kiwis comparison anyway. Because the great big bulk of the arena money is coming from the state budget via gaming. Any money the Boy Mayor would use for the marathon, unless he could point to a specific and dedicated revenue stream, would be money that COULD be spent on anything else. And that's why I'm complaining about it.

You really need to process this point. Because, as much as you'd like to think of all the money in the state and the city is out there in one big happy pile to be used on anything we like or deem necessary, it doesn't work that way. If you want to take shots, at least take fair ones.

Sam M

Why can't the same economic development fund be used for a marathon? We're using it for hockey. As the Post-Gazette's editorial mentions, the marathon "swelled merchants' coffers." Money spent on a hotel room for a hocky game spends the same as money spent on a hotel room for a foot race. Sports as redevelopment: Either it's plausible or it's bullshit. I think it's bullshit. And so do you. Unless you like the sport in question.

But if sports as redevelopment works, I see no reason to support hockey but not running. In fact, I can see a good case for the latter. You know... it doesn't require an enormous arena.

As for whether this is "money that could be spent on something else," how do you know? I do not recall the mayor mentioning a funding source in the Trib article. Maybe he had something in mind like getting a huge corporate sponsor to foot a good portion of the bill.

Rubbish? Sure. Except that's EXACTLY HOW THE MARATHON USED TO BE FUNDED.

I asked the question directly, and I will ask it again: If the mayor could use the same economic development fund that the Penguins used--or if we could con someone like Don Barden to pitch in a few million dollars in exchange for his casino license--would we then be in possession of a "free marathon," or a "marathon that required no taxpayer money"?

Jonathan Potts

If I'm not mistaken, in addition to the state money from the economic development fund, the arena is being funded as well by a separate contribution from Don Barden himself. (From his casino revenues.) Under the terms of the casino license, Barden had to make some kind of contribution to the community. So that money could have been used for other purposes, had public officials wanted it to be so.

Sam M

I might add that the Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund had been set at five percent of gaming revenue for years. Decisions about what to do with the money came much later. In fact, the Penguin signed their arena deal some time before the state government agreed to divert the $7.5 million per year. So if the state government had decided not to spend the money on an arena... it would have just dissolved? Of course not. They would have spent it on something else. Something in Pittsburgh? That's certainly possible. What could it have bought? Well, looking at other things being purchased with money from that fund, the definition of "economic development" seems pretty broad:

"Other Pittsburgh projects that could ultimately be funded from this new bond fund include buildings at Pittsburgh International Airport, a hotel at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and debt payment for the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Ultimately, $498 million in bonds will be sold to pay for the various projects, which also include a cargo airport in Luzerne County."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07179/797877-100.stm

A cargo airport would fly. And buildings at an airport. And hockey. And debt service for the URA. But no one, not anyone anywhere, could have made a case for buses?

Maybe not. But it's simply not true that, had Pittsburgh not gotten an arena, none of that fund money would have been spent here on anything. We'll never know. Because the only thing anyone asked to do with that $7.5 million a year is build an arena.

But that's neither here nor there. As Chad says, the arena is a done deal. Fine. But it certianly seems strange for someone who supported that project so vigorously to say outright that another man supporting a "revitalization through sports" project (a marathon) is ignoring transit and "stroking his own dick" simply because that man likes to jog. Particularly since, as far as I can tell, that man has not uttered a single word about spending city money, county money or any other money.

And can we talk about the rest of the money the city isn't spending for the arena? What about giving up all revenue for all events? That's not money that could be spent on something else?

What about buying properties needed to build the arena and selling them at a loss? That wasn't money that could have been used on something else?

Sam M

But of course it's even worse than that. The government didn't actually "sell the properties at a loss." It bought them. From whom? Well, just check out this example of the SEA not spending any money:

"In another arena-related development, the authority board ratified a temporary license agreement with the Penguins to allow for access to the team-owned former St. Francis Central Hospital building to remove asbestos.

Ms. Conturo said contractor Abmech Inc. began working in the building this week.

The board authorized a $1.48 million contract with Abmech last month to remove asbestos. It will have 105 days to complete the work. The hospital demolition will follow.

The authority needs about half of the property for the arena, whose construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed in late 2009. Under the deal with the Penguins to build the new arena, the authority will pay the team $8.5 million for the hospital property. The Penguins purchased the property for $8 million in 2000."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07110/779560-53.stm

Sam M

More:

"The Penguins have the right to redevelop 30 acres next to the Lower Hill arena site. For each of the 10 years after the arena opens, they can either take control of three acres, or forgo the right to develop three acres of their choice.

They are charged the fair market value of the acreage they want to redevelop, but get a $15 million credit. If, at the end of 10 years, they have taken control of less than $15 million worth of land, the SEA has to pay them the balance of the credit.

Under the arrangement approved by the URA board, that agency and the county's development arm would buy the undeveloped land from the SEA for the same amount the SEA must pay the team."

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