Convention center arena: Another taxpayer funded boondoggle on tap?

What is the deal down at city hall with some councilmen and their penchant for spending taxpayer money to compete with private businesses? We all know about the big taxpayer-owned convention center hotel, which eventually could cost us $500 million or more.

Now, Dwaine Caraway, Ron Natinsky and Mayor Tom Leppert are at it again: This time, the Morning News reports they’re ready to spend $30,000 to $70,000 on a "comprehensive, independent study" to determine how much it would cost to turn the Dallas Convention Center Arena into a junior Nokia Theater or American Airlines Center.

We wrote about this a few months ago, when Caraway rightly was exploring ways to keep Reunion Arena from falling under the axe; ultimately, the council determined the city was better off spending a few million to tear Reunion down rather than let it sit for a few years to see if anyone might want to buy the facility as-is. That decision was fair enough — I didn’t necessarily agree, but it was a coin-flip either way, and it was a case of our elected city officials trying to do their best to limit city expenses and liabilities.
But as described in the DMN, "in exchange for Mr. Caraway’s support and at his behest, the City Council agreed to order Reunion Arena’s closure contingent on exploring new uses for the Dallas Convention Center Arena." Again, fair enough: The word "explore" does not necessarily mean throwing city money at what should be a private enterprise.

So now, the News reports that we’re just another council vote away from spending up to $70,000 to help decide whether the city should re-open the convention center arena (no estimates on the cost from the council guys, but the DMN uses the words "millions of dollars" in its story).

Can the city really beat private enterprise when it comes to booking entertainment? I don’t know much about that business, but the answer is still clear: No way.

If the council wants to do something with the convention center arena, put together an RFP asking for private companies to invest their own money in paying for studies about what it would cost to rehab and restore the arena, and then look at their work for free before deciding what to do. And if we do anything with the arena, let’s make sure that we "lease" the facility to someone with their own money in the deal rather than throw more taxpayer cash away.

In fact, where are we getting the money for this little venture, anyway? Surely there are other priorities in Dallas — potholes and street repairs, for example — that we could spend that cash?


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