David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
It's Not Just Chargers Who Would Fleece Insolvent Political Entity
San Diego is recognized by many as the large U.S. city that is the most likely candidate for bankruptcy. Yet the city's pro football team, the Chargers, would like the insolvent city to subsidize a stadium for the team's billionaire owner to the tune of, supposedly, $500 million, but $600 million is the realistic bottom figure. (Actually, the Chargers would prefer to go to L.A., but want San Diego as a backup.)
Generally, three states are considered the worst off financially: California, Illinois, and New Jersey. Now the Chicago Cubs baseball team has plans to shake down Illinois, which has a $15 billion deficit, and is burdened by financially ailing Chicago and Cook County.
The new Cubs owner, Tom Ricketts, wants the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to float up to $300 million in bonds to be paid over 35 years to fix up Wrigley Field. Now listen to Ricketts' thoroughly disingenuous spin: he says the bonds will be paid over 35 years through amusement taxes that Wrigley visitors already pay. The Cubs paid $16.1 million to the City of Chicago and Cook County last year from the 12% tax on each ticket. So he says it won't come out of taxpayers' pockets. However, "It's still a loss of public money," says Neil deMause, who runs the website www.fieldofschemes.com. The city and county will not get the $16.1 million that they got last year. The state could wind up holding the bag. But Ricketts never discussed his proposal with the governor. "Ricketts is going back on his vow that he had no plans to seek public funds for a Wrigley renovation," says deMause. Billionaire pro sports team owners go back on their vows all the time.