The stadium and the arena are publicly owned, and like any landlord, the city and the county should look after repairs and improvements. Their logic does not apply more broadly. The team owners took control of the process of auctioning off naming rights for these public stadiums. The Browns sold their stadium’s rights for $100 million to FirstEnergy Corporation; the Indians will get $58 million over 16 years from Progressive Insurance; Gilbert’s home loan business paid a terrific sum to Gilbert’s team to name the place Quicken Loans Arena. The owners shared not a penny with the hard-pressed city.
Cleveland has charming, leafy neighborhoods, fine museums and theaters and splendid lake views. More college-educated young adults are moving downtown. At the same time, in the last month for which figures are available, Cuyahoga County’s job growth rate was 0.0. The city’s poverty rate hovers near 37 percent, and the infant mortality rate is 13.0 per thousand births, compared with about 4.0 in New York City, which has no shortage of poverty. Public schools have absorbed cut after cut. I called George Zeller, who has analyzed the economy here for decades. He declined to talk renaissance, saying no such animal existed. “The theory that all of these sports teams are producing a gigantic boom is completely false,” he said.
Over the winter, the Cavaliers’ emissaries arrived with a new proposal. They wanted locals to split the cost — in addition to the sin-tax dollars — of overhauling their arena. Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, added his voice, saying that the league would love to have the All-Star Game in Cleveland, if only its burghers would ante up again for the billionaire owner. The Cavaliers’ chief executive says the overhaul would add to Cleveland’s “economic momentum.”
Ken Berger: NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has issued point-by-point rebuttal of Adam Silver’s comments on the health of the NBA business. “Virtually every business metric demonstrates that our business is healthy.”