Last week, Michael Jordan decided to cash out as majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. The new owners will have an upgraded arena thanks to the city council, last week, voting to spend $215 million dollars in taxpayer money for Spectrum Center upgrades. For these upgrades, the team extended its lease until 2045.
Included in this deal is not just arena upgrades. The new agreement includes plans to build a $60 million dollar practice facility. According to the Charlotte Observer, funding for this facility would come from “yet-to-be-determined naming rights for the creation of a sports and entertainment district around the Spectrum Center”. That sounds bulletproof. In fact, the city expects these unknown naming rights to not just fund this practice facility, but will pay down the arena debt as well. The city has upgraded or renovated the arena several times in the past. In 2014, even as the third-youngest NBA arena at the time, the city gave the team about $35 million in taxpayer funds for arena changes. In 2016, the city gave the team $24 million dollars in public money to replace scoreboards that weren’t broken or old. More in 2019. The list goes on and on.
Back to today, did the city council financially protect the people who elected them? Of course not.
“The other 10 members of council voted in favor, saying they value the NBA team and fear the Hornets may leave Charlotte if they struck down the deal” – Charlotte Observer, 06/17/23
The only person on the city council with a backbone appears to be the Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston. He has told local media that the city continues to get a “bad deal” whenever it hands over millions to the team. Everyone else on the city council seems to get scared whenever their local NBA team even farts. According to one city councilman, the city needed to give this money to the team because “if the Hornets don’t negotiate with us, they negotiate with someone else”. This fear of moving seems to have gotten a hold of this city council.
Because people like Mohammad Jenatian, president and CEO of the Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, go around all local media claiming that the newest sports team will leave if the city doesn’t give them more taxpayer money! He is someone who has been accused of essential pay-for-play bribes if a business owner wanted something from the city. Let’s not forget when he was a city liaison, and I am not kidding, “for strip-club money”. In the past, he has claimed that a new arena would single-handedly cure the city industry’s suffering and ensure growth. He has bragged about increasing occupancy taxes by 2% to fund the NASCAR Hall of Fame building. In 2022, he claimed that the city “was vulnerable to losing the Hornets” and that “Las Vegas and Seattle would both give anything to get an NBA team” if the City Council did not approve a lease extension for the Hornets.
Today he is claiming that we must save the Charlotte Panthers.
“Now, (Mohammad Jenatian) said there’s a consensus within the tourism industry that Charlotte must be proactive to keep the Panthers in the Queen City” – Charlotte Observer, 06/17/23
Meaning…give the Panthers whatever money they ask for. Considering how many times the Panthers have asked for and gotten taxpayer money, I don’t really blame them. Most of these requests were done in closed—door sessions, which is illegal, but hey, it’s the NFL.
- In 2014, the Panthers asked for and received 28 million dollars in public money for stadium upgrades
- In 2016, the Panthers asked for and received 23.5 million dollars in public money for stadium upgrades
- In 2018, the Panthers asked for and received 23.5 million dollars in public money for stadium upgrades
- In 2018, the Panthers asked for and received an additional $75 million in public money for stadium upgrades
- In 2021, the Panthers asked for and received 25 million dollars in public money for stadium upgrades
Hell, if we want to talk about the countless times that the Panthers leaked a story to see what the public reaction would be, I may not have the space to do it. They tried this tactic in 2018 when they possibly were going to ask for up to $200 million in funds for stadium renovations. The next year, maybe their new owner will ask for an additional $215 million in taxpayer dollars?
Many times, a team will have the city increase taxes for a select time to pay for the new sports home. Jenatian wants Charlotte to make the tax increase permanent so that the teams can continue to use that money for whatever they want. Kind of like what the Milwaukee Brewers tried to do when their ballpark tax sunset.
Which is funny considering that in 1997, the Hornets wanted a new arena and guess who opposed it?
“The so-called Athletic Facility User Fee would add 5 percent – or as much as $2.50 – per ticket to events at the Coliseum and Independence Arena…(and) Ericsson Stadium, where the NFL’s Carolina Panthers play… But Mohammad Jenatian says no. As executive vice president of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, Jenatian says his group ‘absolutely, positively’ opposes increasing hotel/motel taxes” – Virginian Pilot, 1997
Now? The city must deal with the Panthers, who will ask for a new stadium soon and will demand public money to the likely tune of over $1 billion dollars. That tourism tax funding hole will get dry and empty very soon. Also, can the city of Charlotte just cut the Panthers property tax rate to virtually nothing? You cut it to absurd levels a few years ago. You might as well just make it zero.