Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sarpy County Looks to Legislature for Bailout for Chalco Stadium

Sarpy County leaders confirmed plans today that they plan to resurrect the bill to use state funding to pay for much of their proposed Chalco baseball stadium. This same plan that has been rejected twice before for development in Sarpy County (specifically, the Cabela's store) and a baseball stadium (in downtown Omaha, designed specifically for the Royals).

Third time's a charm, correct? Well, the devil is in the details, but in this economy with tax revenues likely to shrink, I'm not sure how practical it is to divert state tax money to build a second ballpark in the Omaha metro area. It remains to be seen how this proposal will differ from the previous ones, but I hardly think that simply expanding the reach to allow other areas of the state to utilize these tax incentives is going to work. In fact, that's how the second go-around to use this in downtown Omaha came about. As noted, it failed as well.

Backers of the proposal point to the success Kansas City, Kansas has had with their "STAR" financing proposals. Which is true; the "Village West" area has blossomed as a result of this. But there is a huge difference between what Kansas City did and what Sarpy County is doing.

Huge difference, but it only takes six letters: N. A. S. C. A. R.

Yes, they built a ballpark out there as well, not to mention a regional Cabelas. But the big driver is the Kansas Speedway, which draws tens of thousands of people to this area from across the midwest. That's the driver for all this development. That justifies everything.

That's not happening in Sarpy County. There's absolutely nothing in the works to attract tourists from outside the Omaha metro area.

And that's why I'm waiting to hear what Sarpy County's "Plan B" is, because that is the most likely way they will be able to get their stadium built. Certainly "Plan B" got Cabela's built in La Vista. "Plan B" got a downtown stadium built as well. (A bigger stadium, in fact, that actually will attract tourists from across the country, I might add.)

If I'm a legislator who is likely going to need to be making difficult budget decisions, I'm not sure I'd react too positively to a third go-round with this measure with the knowledge that this proposal turned out to be unnecessary the previous two times.

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