Arena · Ballpark · Stadium

Cleveland is consistently paying for arena, ballpark & stadium upgrades. Now, they are approving projects without knowing how or even if they can afford it.

The city of Cleveland has been written about several times on this site. The Cleveland Browns are likely to want over a billion taxpayer dollars in the near future for a new stadium. On an almost yearly basis, the Cleveland Guardians and Cleveland Cavaliers are given millions of taxpayer dollars for repairs that the team can and should do themselves. But about a month ago, Crain’s Cleveland Business wrote an interesting story discussing how the city was yet again going to pay for upgrades to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the Cavaliers.

— Yahoo

However, the non-profit corporation who decides whether to approve these projects, also has no idea how, where or when they can pay for it. Which does seem to be a slight problem?

The non-profit Gateway Economic Development Corp.(Gateway Corporation) unanimously approved $24.4 million in repairs to the arena at a board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 9…but it’s unclear where the money to cover all $24 million will come from– Crain’s Cleveland Business, 08/10/23

Normally, Gateway Corporation uses city revenue from their sin tax to pay for these projects. But the amounts that the local teams want continues to skyrocket. In 2014, voters agreed to extend sin taxes. This allowed the Browns, Cavaliers, and Guardians to each receive $92 million in total through the sin tax expiration in 2034. We have more than a decade to go and all but $10 million is left.

Maybe it was used in 2019 when taxpayers gave the Cavaliers $70 million dollars to renovate their arena for the 10th time? Or perhaps it was used up last year when the city gave the Guardians $285 million for upgrades and changes to Progressive Field? Furthermore, the $24.4 million dollar upgrades mentioned above? They aren’t included in the numbers. Meaning, when I say that the city has just $10 million dollars left, we haven’t even included the recent arena upgrades.

— Statista

How exactly will the city/county pay for the remaining projects? Nobody knows. Instead, major sports business publications are left to state the obvious:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are running into an increasingly common dilemma: They’re planning $24.4 million in upgrades to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but the public entity responsible for funding the work can’t pay for it”— Front Office Sports, 08/21/2023

Cavaliers CEO Nic Barlage told the city that the team could pay for “some of the repair(s)…but obviously…we can’t foot the entire bill”. Obviously. It isn’t like the Cavaliers are now close to making $350 million a year in revenue alone. Talk about needing a buck.

— Statista

By the way, what do we know about this Gateway Corporation? They make all sorts of substantive financial decisions. Well, we know that the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County created Gateway Corporation, with both city and county appointing board members. But are they good with money?

Gateway itself is still saddled with debt. At the end of 2021, it owed $161 million, according to a 2022 report on Gateway from the Ohio Auditor General”—, 08/19/2023

Awesome. But some companies run successfully in debt. Surely, the Ohio Auditor’s Office believes that Gateway can pay back whatever loans they may have, right? According to, the answer is not good: “Based on historical trends, Gateway’s ability to repay the obligation is unlikely”.

— ClevelandMemory

Well, maybe they have a history of making good choices? They haven’t billed taxpayers for things like two dinners at expensive restaurants that cost $7,500?

As County taxpayers shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for Gateway it’s become clear that they…built subsidized playing facilities for the city’s wealthiest citizens”— Point of View, Roldo Baltimore

Ok. Breath. Everything is fine. Cleveland can catch up and pay off the Cavaliers upgrades. Let’s just not have any team needing more money from the city for the foreseeable future.

Wait, what? The Guardians want another $10 million dollars for upgrades? Gateway approved it already? The Browns want $3.4 million from the city for repairs?

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