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I'm a cynic. It may not be the best way to go through life, but it does afford you plenty of opportunities to say "I told you so."
My cynicism leads me to reflexively oppose any attempt to link Pittsburgh's slots license to the construction of a new "multi-purpose arena", as our politicians euphemistically call it, an idea the Post-Gazette supports in this editorial. My opposition extends to the Penguins' own proposal, under which Isle of Capri would pay $290 million toward construction of a new arena.
The Isle of Capri plan raises several questions: Would this cover all costs? Is Isle of Capri going to ask for any public dollars to build the arena? And who would own this facility? Keep in mind that the Steelers do not own Heinz Field and the Pirates do not own PNC Park--they pay rent, but they also keep the lion's share of revenues from even non-sporting events. In other words, the facilities are publicly owned, meaning no taxes are collected, but the public sees little benefit. Indeed, the WPIAL has to beg the Steelers to allow them to use Heinz Field for their championships as they used Three Rivers Stadium for years. Would the Penguins or Isle of Capri get the same great deal? The cynic in me says yes.
The PG and some politicians, including Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, believe that anyone who gets the license should pony up funds for a new arena. Let's consider that for a moment. This idea that the casino operator needs to give something back to the community seems to be a tacit admission of two things: one, that the casino license is worth far, far more than the $50 million fee, and two, that there will some deliterious effects on the community. Why else would the slots parlor owe the city or county anything more than any other private business?
But let's accept the premise, for the sake of argument. What should the slots operator give back to the community? It might help us to think back to grade school, when we were taught to distinguish between wants and needs. Does the city need a new hockey--excuse me, multi-purpose--arena? Even the Post-Gazette has to concede that at least in the short-term, it does not:
Stories about the NCAA basketball tournament and major concert tours skipping Pittsburgh because of the arena's flaws have been generally debunked...
So, the city wants a new arena, but the it needs major repairs to its water system. The city wants to keep its NHL franchise, but it needs better roads. One wonders if our politicians will be able to perceive the difference, or if they will even care.