When it comes to ransom demands, I am a reasonable person.
Thus, I do not reject out of hand the Carolina Panthers request for $144 million from Charlotte to spiff up their field. My position is that free money is a wonderful thing and if you never ask, you never get.
Never mind that I think its nonsense that their stadium, opened 17 years ago, is a decrepit ruin in need of $300 million in upgrades, roughly the same amount of money it cost to build in the first place.
If it were human, it wouldnt be old enough to vote, much less buy a $7 beer. But were a town that loves to build sporting arenas, and because the new baseball park will be done in a year, were wise to look for a new project.
There is a reasonable debate going on about whether professional teams are worth it to a city. One study says the Panthers spin off gazillions to the local economy and more in taxes.
This seems about right to me, give or take a gazillion or two, but the real question is about the intangible benefits that pro sports bring.
There are franchises with names like Yankees and Red Sox or Redskins and Bears that are synonymous with the cities they occupy. They are titans on the invisible skyline called civic identity. They are in a special class.
Then there are the franchises with names like Golden State and Thunder or Rays and Marlins. These are in a different category, meaning they make good Final Jeopardy clues in the category of Name the City.
This category is ours.
Our arenas sparkle, inspire and roar. Our teams stumble, bumble and flop. We want to play with the big boys, but somehow were willing to settle for being their doormat.
So heres my Panther deal. If a company wants to come to town, we fork up incentives. They are based on goals employment targets and whatnot.
Therefore, for every winning season for the next decade, lets reward the Panthers building fund with $10 million from the grub and suds tax. For every post-season appearance, another $10 million. Well cap it at $150 million, which is what the team is asking, plus a small tip.
For that, they change the name of the team to the Charlotte Panthers, to honor the municipalitys generous residents. And the team keeps its big blue paws in town for 20 years.
We wanted pro football, and we got it. Now we realize what we wanted was a team in line with the citys aspirations.
Pay-for-performance strikes me as a reasonable solution. You might even call it a win-win.
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