Almost exactly two years ago, I was pointing out that Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez had Arena Envy in a big way:
And yes, we did talk about Mayor Martin Chavez’ desire to put $125 million of taxpayer money on the line to fix his Arena Envy problem. It seems the Mayor really wants to get a big one, no matter whose property rights he has to trample.
You would think that the reported financial problems of Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star arena would have cured Mayor Chavez of pursuing his own arena dreams, but it seems, like many of the bad ideas proposed by this administration, it is put back on the table every two years:
The Star Center has been a costly undertaking for the city. Rio Rancho sold $36 million worth of bonds to build the $47 million, 6,500-seat center, and pledged gross receipts tax revenues to back the bonds.
At the time, Albuquerque was considering building a Downtown arena, but Rio Rancho beat its larger neighbor to the punch. Soon after Rio Rancho announced its arena plan, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez said he was “pulling the plug” on its arena, saying taxpayers would likely have to back debt for the project.
Albuquerque is now reconsidering building its own 12,000-seat arena and 450-room hotel near the convention center downtown. The project is expected to cost $398 million.
Albuquerque city officials are expected to make a decision in six or seven months, after a feasibility study is completed.
So, explain something to me. If twenty four months ago, it made sense to pull the plug because taxpayers would have had to foot the bill, what would have changed now? After all, we have now learned from Rio Rancho not only will taxpayers have to back the debt (i.e. bonds), but in all likelihood, taxpayers will have to pay ongoing costs when the ill-conceived project under delivers the performance outlined in the feasibility project.
We’ve already seen new taxes being pushed to support the government’s last greatest economic development ideas – spaceport and train. Do we really now want to pay more in taxes to pay for an arena as well? I’m thinking enough is enough. Until the government can pay for their last great idea without coming back to the “taxpayer bank,” I don’t think they should get to move ahead with any new “great ideas.”