Can Renovating the Q Save Cleveland?

As a lifelong Northeast Ohioan and basketball lover, I love the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I watched the excitement on the face of my late grandmother as she listened to the Cavs on the radio as hometown hero, LeBron James, repeatedly saved the day. I was downtown at the Watch Party when the Cavaliers did the unthinkable, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State, ending a 52 year championship drought.

I love the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But I am against the renovation of Quicken Loans arena as a means of getting them to stay in Cleveland—especially under the current agreement, championed by Mayor Frank Jackson and a majority of Cleveland City Council.

Proponents of the Q deal say attracting sports teams/keeping sports teams is a catalyst for economic growth. They also laud the Cavs for enhancing the agreement with plans to give Watch Party donations to Habitat for Humanity and a commitment to refurbish gyms in Cleveland City Schools and Cleveland recreation centers. Supporters stress that the city is getting a bargain with its $88 million-dollar commitment to the $140 million-dollar project.

Opponents of the deal say officials should prioritize other improvements for the entire city as part of the deal, once people have had a chance to vote on it. Groups like the Greater Cleveland Congregations would like to see the renovation agreement include a community equity fund, focusing on jobs, mental health outreach, and long-term neighborhood improvements.

Other opponents say it’s misleading to represent this agreement as a “new deal” because admissions taxes, or taxes from ticket sales to games and events at the Q, were already figured into an existing deal the city had with the Cavs, even though they’re being touted as a key element of the new deal. What would would happen to the admissions taxes if they weren’t going to a Q renovation? They’d go into the city’s general fund.

The heart of this debate isn’t about a particular figure or even about whether the Q should be updated with city funds. Most people support the upgrade in some capacity, they just don’t agree on the current terms.

At the heart of this debate is a question most major American cities have had to answer.

Can a new sports arena save any city?

[bctt tweet=”At the heart of the Q debate: Can a new arena save any city? – @MarchaeGrair” username=”GoodCauseCLE”]

A study analyzing basketball teams from 1979-2009 said cities with the newest arenas actually take a bigger economic hit than those without them. The study said the economy of each team’s city depended on the “local economic, social, and cultural context where the city is located,” not on the newness of their sports complexes.

In other words, a Q deal would have to give much more than refurbished gyms and a Habitat for Humanity donation to make a lasting change in the economy and infrastructure of Cleveland. The temporary construction jobs and the service jobs from the expansion will put money in pockets for that time, but when the construction stops and the off-season starts, those workers and the city will be back at square one.

The current Q deal, both in how it’s been promoted and negotiated, is nothing more than a city and a sports team glamorizing “trickle-down” economics. If the city wants its people to invest in the Q, the Cavs need to prioritize investing a significantly larger amount into Greater Cleveland, not just downtown. And they should do so as a commitment to give back to the city where they play, not as if they’re holding a beloved sports franchise hostage with a ransom that taxpayers have to pay.

  • Join the petition drive. If you’re interested in stopping the current Q Deal,  contact Greater Cleveland Congregations, a non-partisan coalition of faith communities and partner organizations working together to build power for social justice. Sign a petition or volunteer to help collect signatures if you don’t live in Cleveland, so voters can weigh in on the Q deal. They have a little more than a week to finish collecting 6,000 signatures.
  • Hold Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council accountable for the benefits the Q deal is allegedly going to bring to the city. It’s not good enough to hear that the Q will bring the city “permanent jobs.” Contact Mayor Jackson’s office and ask him what those jobs will be and what the projected income will be per job. In an election year, it’s time to ask for specifics.
  • Speak up. Many opponents of the deal argue that the voices of Cleveland residents are missing from this discussion. Make your voice heard on social media by sharing this post and starting a discussion. You can also write letters to the editor for Cleveland.com.

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