Report: Cleveland, Cuyahoga County plan to use tax on Cavaliers playoff tickets to pay for arena upgrades

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While LeBron James was in the midst of leading the Cavaliers to four straight NBA Finals, they got Cleveland and Cuyahoga County taxpayers to cover most costs of upgrading their arena.

LeBron left for the Lakers, and well…

Michael Powell of The New York Times:

Aspects of the financing look a touch shaky. City and county leaders plan to use a portion of the tax on Cavaliers playoff tickets to help pay off the arena bonds. That looks like a dodgy bet right now as the Cavaliers, shorn of James, may not even make the playoffs.

The Cavaliers advise no worries. They say they will front the money if the city and county have a shortfall — so long as the money is paid back to the team later.

With interest?

Taxpayer funding of arenas is somewhere between mostly and always a bad financial deal for taxpayers. Philosophically, that money can be put to better use – schools, police or just left in the hands of taxpayers – than subsidizing a billionaire’s business. (This is why the idea the Cavs were losing so much money was always misleading.) The wider economic benefits of publicly financed arenas are way overstated. They often just shift where people spend money on entertainment rather than generate new spending. And the people who negotiate these deals on behalf of taxpayers often get taken for a ride.

Case in point. LeBron dragged the Cavaliers to the Finals last year. The remnants of that team are unlikely to make the playoffs, leaving Cleveland and Cuyahoga County without playoff-ticket tax revenue.

Maybe the Cavs will surprise, reach the postseason and sell tickets for several extra home games. But that darn sure isn’t the bet I’d make.