Dec 30, 2011
Allentown Arena Pain
Sometimes it's apparent from the start that something isn't a good plan, and the Arena is one of them. The lease terms, coaxed from the City by a Morning Call right to know order*, indicate that the Arena was oversold, to both the City Council and the taxpayers. This past fall, Mayor Pawlowski told Council that the venue would attract 1.5 million people and be open almost every night of the year. The cost was estimated to be $80-$100 million. The new figures, printed in The Morning Call, disclose a much different reality. The arena will cost $158 million, almost double the first projection. It will attract 400,000 people, less than a third promised. It will be open only 120 nights a year, almost guaranteeing failure. Considering that there are 40 home hockey games, that means the facility hopes to hold 80 other events a year, attracting about 200,000 people. The lease terms reveal that although the cream off the top will go the tenant, The Brooks Company, the taxpayers will finance this white elephant. Already the merchants on the south side of Hamilton Street have learned that when there's no people across the street, their business plummeted. Their predicament will only worsen. Arena supporters call this blog negativity. They place their bets on the NIZ producing spinoff enterprise. They suffer from institutional amnesia. Fifteen years ago Allentown had two new buildings at 7th and Hamilton, neither of which attracted tenants. One fell into a sinkhole, the other is now County owned. Since Allentown real estate taxes can be used to support any shortcoming in this public/private project, it's truly a yoke around the taxpayer's shoulders.
* court order and new figures by Scott Kraus
diagnosis of taxpayer pain by Dr. molovinsky