Dear Miss California Planning,
My name is City of Ontario, but if you print my letter, could you kindly change my name to something more anonymous like … Ms. C. of O.? (I want to avoid the prying eyes of sarcastic journalists, who like nothing more than to snark at young, vulnerable, economically viable cities.)
Here's my question: Do you think I've done anything wrong? I realize that what I did was very unusual, especially for a California city with a population of 173,000 on the western end of San Bernardino County. I have been told that I have behaved forwardly, even to the point, and here I hold my breath, of being "innovative." That kind of talk frightens me. At the same time, the very thought of my deed fills me with pleasure. And yet I lie awake tormented, asking: Have I done the right thing?
I keep going over in my mind every detail of the plan, looking for some flaw or fatal wrinkle—and yet I can't find one! It's all too perfect. I must tell you now, or I will burst: I have built a $150 million hockey stadium entirely with my own money, and I did so without selling bonds or going into debt. I sold land to a developer to raise the money!
There, I said it. And that's not all: I continue to own the arena and I'm going to rake in $12 million a year, or possibly more, on this baby. It's not just hockey, mind you, as much as I love to watch large men swatting each other with their enormous arm guards. (Swooners!) No, the sports facility is only the centerpiece of a 92-acre, mixed-use development being built by the Panatonni Corporation of Sacramento, with housing, retail and restaurants, known as Piemonte. (That's pronounced pee-MON-tay, by the way, not PIE-monty.) And the arena itself, far from being only for hockey, will double as a concert venue for name-brand concert attractions like … oh, what's their names? Bruce Sticksteen? The Dixey Lips? Puff Diddle, the predominant hip-hug artist? (Note to self before mailing letter: Check those spellings. His first name might be Bryce.)
My sole tenant will be a billionaire corporation known as AEG (for Anschutz Entertainment Group) of Denver, Colorado. Mr. Philip Anschutz, who cut his teeth in railroad real estate, is just the smartest man in the world. He is the largest owner of movie screens in the country and claims to be the second largest concert promoter. Mr. Anschutz is also the owner or co-owner of sports teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club and the newly minted Ontario Reign. (As in Inland Empire. Get it?) Mr. Anschutz is also a very fine developer who is currently building the splendiferous LA Live, a theater-sports-nightclub-hotel-restaurant extravaganza right in the heart of downtown L.A. We like to think of the Piemonte project as a small-scale version of LA Live. It's like the mini-SUV version.
You may think that I'm a ditz, but I've got a head for business. The hockey team will pay us $1 million a year in rent. In addition, Ontario – I mean, Ms. C. of O. – stands to make an additional $11 million in tax increment and sales tax revenue from the entire Piemonte project. And that's not a shabby return on investment. Wouldn't you do the same if you were in my shoes?
Still, I fret. Will journalists, especially Mr. You-Know-Who (he knows who he is) ridicule me for building a sports arena for a multi-billionaire who could buy the City of Ontario and still have enough left over to buy the Texas-Sized Breakfast at Mama's Daughter's Diner in Dallas? Oh, please, tell me what should I do?
– Inwardly Troubled in the Inland Empire
Dear Ms. C. of O.,
Please put your pretty little business head to rest. You have done nothing wrong. You are, in fact, the envy of all the cities around you. Not only are you job-rich, but you are also rich in land, which gives you the ability to wangle deals such as Hockey Heaven in Piemonte.
Yes, your business decision was audacious, almost unprecedented. Building a stadium for cash? Whoever heard of that? Plus, it must be acknowledged that many cities who build sports facilities or offer big cash incentives to team owners often come to regret it. (Think of another city whose name begins with "O".)
In fact, your act would have been reckless, foolhardy and downright ill-informed if you hadn't lined up that guaranteed rental income of $1 million a year. (Many cities with minor league hockey charge a lot less in rent for an 11,000-seat facility.) Don't worry about fuddy-duddies, much less journalists, scolding you for building palaces for rich people. You know perfectly well what you're doing.
The hockey-retail juggernaut is a brilliant play for the city: The games bring in couples who stroll before the puck drops, and then eat and drink afterwards, then stroll and buy a magazine or a mystery, then have a late-night coffee before going home. At which point, those older than 35 lie in bed and read their magazines. With your comparatively high median household income of $55,589, it's a win-win-win for the developer, the sports-team owner and the smarter-than-average city. The only losers are sore-heads, hockey haters and fiscal sticks-in-the-mud. Plus, those pesky journalists, who like nothing better than to drive your publicists clean out of their minds. If I were you, honey, I would ignore all of them. You're on the road to riches. Who cares what anybody thinks?
– Miss California Planning
P.S. Can you possibly snag some complimentary golden circle tix to the Sticksteen show? Hubby's a big fan.