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September 16, 2011

6

Arenas not a good investment?

by Deena Winter


Today’s LJS story on a prominent economist’s opinion that most arenas and stadiums are not the economic panaceas they’re advertised to be was interesting to me, having covered the planning of Lincoln’s $340 million arena project for a half dozen years.

Perhaps the toughest story to get in the Journal Star was one in which I interviewed a bunch of economists about this very sentiment that such publicly financed projects are not the shot in the arm supporters say they will be.

It was one of the most heavily edited, scrutinized stories I’ve written in my 20-year journalism career. The city election was coming, and we wouldn’t want to poison people’s mind with such sacrilege, would we? After the story was published, one of the leaders of the pro-arena movement told me they would be coming out with their own economist to refute my story’s findings. About a week later, a UNL economics professor wrote this guest column, sort of vaguely refuting my story, I guess.

Which was funny, given that UNL economists just were nowhere to be found whenever I tried to get them to comment on Lincoln’s proposed arena. It seemed they were ducking the issue.

And then last year I took a UNL economics/journalism class, and that very professor, David Rosenbaum, was frequently a guest speaker. I couldn’t wait to ask him about how his opinion of arenas seemed to go against the grain among economists. When I finally got my chance, he refused to answer my question. I think he knew who I was. I dropped the class soon thereafter. I figured if we couldn’t speak freely about the biggest economic question facing our own fair city at that moment, what could we talk about honestly?

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roberta
    Sep 16 2011

    Too late now, the tracks are moved and moving, the train is running and some people are making a train load of money.

    Reply
  2. Matthew Platte
    Sep 16 2011

    +1 for featuring the words “economists” and “honestly” in the same paragraph. :/

    Reply
  3. Publius
    Sep 16 2011

    To really believe that you would have an honest conversation with a professor from the very entity that would benefit greatly from this venture….?

    Oh it is a good investment…. for everyone else but the the city of Lincoln. I have a prediction. If I remember correctly, according to the contract, if the city can’t finish the project because of money problems, they/we have to liquidate. Guess who will swoop in and get a nice new arena for pennies on the dollar – some private entity. So, “they” capitalize on the front end and then again on the back.

    Reply
  4. tfw
    Sep 17 2011

    I have yet to find someone who will answer my original question with solid facts and figures and not some vague expectations and hopes on where is the money coming from to pay for all of this. If this thing costs $340 million then why did they only float a bond issue for less than 10% of that amount. Is some of this money coming from that $12 million bond issue passed back in the eighties to finance a regional shopping mall downtown that never really was? It looks like that those guys running the 2015 Vision Group pockets are getting a little more green at everyone elses expense.

    Reply
  5. AB
    Sep 19 2011

    Who stands to make the most money from this in our city? Is it UNL? Are there several construction firms here? I am curious – as I don’t know – who get the greatest benefits from construction-maintenance-sales of tickets here?

    Reply

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