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Jul 02nd
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While I'm a die-hard Red Bulls fan, I do agree with the Weiner's long-held and well known belief that massive public subsidies for sports venues are a terrible idea. But even with that in mind, I have a hard time taking this piece seriously. Right off the bat, the opening trope – soccer fans enjoying opening day at the stadium last Sunday while Harrison taxpayers continued to suffer – is embarrassingly inaccurate. Sunday's game was played in Dallas and the Red Bulls fans won't get to enjoy their home opener for more than a week. Why does this matter? Because it speaks to Weiner's attention to detail specifically relating to the arena in Harrison. There are two very different issues at play here, and yet you'd never know it from Weiner's heavily flawed, manipulative op-ed. First, there's the money that Harrison laid out to clear the land. This $40 million investment was made four years before the stadium even opened and it wasn't done entirely for the Red Bulls. The stadium is only one part of a much larger development that has only just begun to see further progress. Everyone (including Weiner) acknowledges that this lack of progress is the real problem behind Harrison's fiscal troubles and that it's a direct result of the global economic meltdown, not the fact that Red Bull built a soccer stadium. In fact, the success of the stadium in drawing healthy gameday crowds is the only thing ensuring that the planned development is now continuing. The overall redevelopment plan is still in its infancy, so declaring it a failure or success is wildly premature to the point of being laughable. And as for the tax fight between the city and the team's ownership, it's hard for anyone who wasn't in their meetings to know what kind of promises were made. Clearly, if it was easy to figure out, the courts would've decided the matter months ago. That a major multinational company and a fairly large city can't get their stories straight here does not speak well for either side. I can say that it seemed fairly clear to me from contemporary reporting that the city ownership of the land and the company ownership of the facility was agreed to from the get-go – a sweetener from the city to have a stadium anchor their redevelopment plan. Again, I actually think this is a terrible arrangement for the city, but if I owned a team and was approached with the same offer, I'd have taken it. (And when they came to collect, I'd also have fought it.) But the fact of the matter is that the property taxes from Red Bull don't come close to the amount the city invested in the overall project. Then there are entire sentences like this one: "It will be finances and will Harrison salvage something by getting a check for property taxes at the stadium site." Excuse me? This is the work of an award winning writer? Again, I don't point this out frivolously – it's hard to take a piece like this seriously when it's so hard to follow. The jury is still out on whether or not the Riverbend District will be a success with Red Bull Arena as its most high-profile tenant. This op-ed doesn't do anything to make the case otherwise.


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