Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sarpy County Ballpark Funding Fails ... Now What?

In what has to be a surprise to nobody, the bailout plan for the state to fund the proposed Sarpy County ballpark failed today when it became clear there was no support for it, despite an all-out attempt by Sarpy County to push it forward.

So does that kill the Boondoggle? Nope...but now the charade is over. It's finally time for Sarpy County to tell us how they actually plan to fund this ballpark. Time is short for Sarpy County, as they have until the end of the month to bail on the plan. They've already wasted nearly five months on the hope that the state would play Santa Claus. Now it's time for reality.

So how does Sarpy County do this? Well, for starters, the project goes on a diet to trim costs as much as possible. Southport by Cabelas now becomes the least likely location, as Sarpy County probably can't afford to pay for the land. In fact, Sarpy may now be pushing for cash donations along with land donations in a last gasp effort to make this happen.

The Bellevue location becomes more likely, as Bellevue and Sarpy County could reach an agreement to use city funding (sales taxes and tax-increment financing) to offset the county's expenses. That won't be enough; if it was, the Royals would already be playing in a 9,000 seat stadium downtown.

What about the rest of the cost? Sarpy County previously suggested inheritance taxes, hotel taxes, and keno taxes. Problem with that is, with the exception of a recent increase in the hotel tax, that money is already committed elsewhere. Is Sarpy County going to really eliminate those other programs to build a ballpark? Or will this be a shell game, where property taxes go up to pay those other programs, freeing up the other revenues for the stadium?

Of course, Sarpy County can bail on this project anytime this month. I don't think that happens right away, but the longer Sarpy County waits to announce the real financing plan, the more likely that happens. It's interesting to note that all this happened the day AFTER Hal Daub went down to defeat. Coincedence? I wonder.

In any event, Mayor-elect Jim Suttle needs to start putting pressure on MECA to help salvage the Royals. Sarpy County isn't dead yet by any means, but the illogical notion of Chalco is finally starting to collapse.

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