Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jai alai uptown, paid for by taxpayers?

Good morning and welcome to O-pinion, the editorial board’s home for opinion, perspective and debate. I’m Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten, and I’ll be your host today.

Anyone up for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to build a jai-alai stadium uptown? For those of you who didn’t grow up in Miami like I did, jai-alai is an exciting, fast-paced sport kind of like raquetball but with giant wicker scoops on the players’ hands instead of racquets. Now county commissioner Bill James raises the specter that Mecklenburg taxpayers could be on the hook for an uptown jai-alai joint.

He’s kidding, of course. But he’s raising some serious – and good – questions about what will become of Memorial Stadium on the edge of uptown. The Observer’s April Bethea is reporting that county officials are considering the future of the stadium, including whether to study tearing it down and building a new professional sports stadium for some unknown, future professional sports franchise. They’ll convene a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Grady Cole Center to talk about different options.

The stadium, built in 1936, clearly needs attention. Home to Shrine Bowl football games, the occasional Johnson C. Smith game and other events, the stadium of about 20,000 seats has been closed twice in recent years, including when a portion of the bleachers caved in. But replacing it with a brand new facility fit for some undetermined professional sports team is nutty. In a sluggish economy that has an extremely uncertain near-term future, those millions don’t exist; if they do, they should be spent on a higher use than dramatically upgrading Memorial Stadium.

James thinks the whole discussion could be a “back-door” way to build a stadium for AAA baseball’s Charlotte Knights. The Knights have been trying to move uptown from Fort Mill but haven’t lined up the financing to do so. The possibilities, James suggests, are endless.

“Maybe next we can build a jai alai facility on spec after that?” James writes in an email to the Observer’s editorial board. “We did build a whitewater center on spec with phony numbers.”

OK, so Charlotteans will continue to have to go to south Florida to see the cestas. But they should stay tuned to make sure county commissioners and staff have their priorities straight.


Unknown said...

Jai alai is needed, but only if they allow pari-mutaul betting. This may be the best idea Bill James has ever had.

spinelabel said...

Make it a tent city for homeless families. Bathrooms are already in place, and entrance / exit points could be easily patrolled. It could be like Camp Greene.

Skippy said...

Why not, "we" built a staduim for a billionaire after we voted against it and the Neckcar Hall of Shame is a smashing success. The commissioners are a bunch of clowns who have a reckless and borderline criminal spending history.