Commentary

Arena deals aid civic pride, economy

Originally Published: February 22, 2012
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

Barclays CenterAP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Barclays Center in Brooklyn will bring new visitors for its area for concerts and Nets games.

It seems that our society as a whole has become much more aware of our local economics. When your state, county and/or city is going broke -- like what has happened to so many here in America the past few years -- we become more aware of the whats and wheres of how we are paying our taxes. We have also become ultra-aware of new taxes. And most all of us have had a tough financial fight over these past few years, to coincide with our local government's malaise.

Sports seem to be a two-fold remedy for all of this. These games can make us forget, for a while, all of our daily pressures and worries. Secondly, restaurants, clothing shops and arena/stadium/parking facilities, all thrive from the onslaught of people in attendance.

It seems like a no-brainer. Even in the worst of financial times, people will spend money for sports. Local economies win. Right?

In 2006, Seattle voters voiced their collective opinion. They believed that any new arena that was "paid" for by the taxpayers must show a profit after the bonds were paid off. I think they were dead wrong.

The area in the lower Queen Anne District of Seattle (where the previous home of the Seattle Sonics, Key Arena, still sits pretty much empty) has never quite recovered economically from the loss of its NBA team. Restaurants and stores had to close. Scores of arena employees lost their jobs. Hotel rooms that would have been utilized for at least 41 nights of the year were now vacant. On top of that, the rather large sports community in the Northwest went into a major NBA-specific funk.

That "profit" on an arena initiative now seems like a short-sided and uninformed decision.

Sacramento is going through this same deal right now.

And Seattle, it seems, is now ready to reconsider the decision of six years ago. There is an investment group in place that is ready to get its hands dirty with a new arena. They are ready to get some NBA back in town, and even going as far as exploring the possibility of bringing an NHL team to Seattle.

The new Nets arena in Brooklyn (Barclays Center) will presumably put some economic influx into that area. The buzz around the team moving to Brooklyn can do nothing but create more buzz, love and money for the team and for Brooklyn.

Dallas was awarded its Super Bowl only after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones construction began on Cowboys Stadium. Big revenue. Ford Field has almost single-handedly brought a robustness to the downtown center of Detroit. Petco Park has done the same for downtown San Diego. Big-time change.

But am I missing something? Are people like me way too "sports-centric" to see the financial forest through the trees? Are people like me wrong in just assuming and hoping that a new arena in their town will benefit the whole area economically? Or is this just another tax burden that municipalities should not undertake?

I dunno. If it is me you are asking, I believe college and professional sports teams also do so much more for a city than just bring in the dollars. City pride can do wonders for the worker bee. It just seems easier to get more done when your chest is all puffed out and your head is up.


Musician Duff McKagan -- who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and now has his autobiography out -- writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."