May 24th, 2017

This story was originally published at 1600 on 22 May.

Several updates appear at the end of the piece.

Something in Cleveland stinks. Badly.

The Gund Arena—now Quicken Arena—cost $157 million to build. That was the overrun cost. Originally, they it said it would cost $75 million. We amazingly are still paying for overrun bonds issued by Cuyahoga County (till 2023).

But time for more!

The new façade for Quicken Arena will costs an estimated $140 million (more than the original estimated cost of the arena) with borrowing costs skyrocketed to $282 million. And they call it “citizen owned.” How quaint.

Something smells BAD.

What’s going on here?

What I’ve been trying to say for some time.

The media—led by the Plain Dealer and led by the nose by County Executive Armond and Mayor Frank Jackson—has been selling us dog meat for hamburger, if you know what I mean.

Here is my (our) problem: I’ve been trying to get the County to tell me exactly what the hell we taxpayers are buying. Details! What are we paying for? Is that so difficult? They have price tags.

Apparently it is tough, since for weeks I’ve not gotten the answer.

But I did get something that gives me serious pause.

This is NOT a mere upgrade of an older facility. That’s bogus.

This is a major project. This expansion will produce hefty profits—for Dan Gilbert alone. He doesn’t share a penny of its profits with taxpayers who are financing much of it.

The PD variously calls it a “makeover” or “upgrade” or “a striking $140 million upgrade to the Q Arena that dramatically alters the facility’s appearance…”

No, it is not just appearance advancement but a profitability one. That’s the key.

The PD says of the deal: “A $140 million reconstruction of the Q arena to modernize it with a glass front, public gathering spaces and dining areas that let you watch the game while you eat.” Sounds simple.

Yet this tells me that Betsy Sullivan, Chris Quinn, George Rodrigue are lying about the Quicken Arena deal they strongly back because if they even glanced at the figures they should know that it is a significant expansion of the facility with more than half being paid by the public. They want to be ignorant.

Here’s where it gets good.

Cuyahoga County did give me a few figures, not broken down. Recently, I gave you what the County is borrowing for this project. The plan is for the County to let three bonds: Bonds A—$35,000,000 (tax-exempt); Bonds B—$35,000,000; and Bonds C—$70,000,000 (latter 2 taxable). It notes the Cavs cash contribution will be $900,000 (how generous). Total: $140,900,000. No borrowing by the Cavs.

What’s of major interest to me and should be to you is another figure telling of “estimated uses” of those funds. One figure in particular—$14,600.000.

That’s a big chunk of dough.

It is marked: FF&E plus Technology.

This is an ADDITION to the arena.

FF&E means “furniture, fixtures & equipment.”

Without a breakdown of this FF&E, I go back to what this cost meant at then Jacobs Field. Just for a comparison. That $14.6 million is an astounding figure to me.

Gateway built the baseball stadium one large restaurant, the Terrace Club. It cost $5,155,893, over-budget, of course. At the time I wrote about it a marketing director of another downtown restaurant told me, “No other restaurant comes close to that (in seating).” It sat 900 people. The manager at Morton’s told me, “That’s absolutely huge.” Yes, and free!

In addition, the arena was built a more exclusive restaurant, then known as “Sammy’s,” and run by a former Gateway original board member. That restaurant cost $1,841,384 plus furniture of $178,750, and kitchen of $350,000 for a total cost of $2,370,134.

That’s a lot of money for two non-property tax paying restaurants but it still doesn’t match the $14.6 million.

That’s why I want a breakdown of the FF&E of $14.6 million. What the hell are they getting—not just a facade of glass.

What can we expect to give the money-grubber Gilbert?

“Technology” is included in the deal.

Does that mean giant TV screens to which fans can pay something near the price of admission to get into the sold-out arena itself? What’s the charge? How many different eating places will be offered?

Why does the city of Cleveland with its heavy population of low income people have to provide resources with a billionaire NBA owner?

Here’s some of what we bought for the baseball franchise: Tile in kitchen: $48,000; lighting fixtures: $78,000; carpeting in restaurant and bar: $54,455; Tile for bar: $28,000; Stone for restaurant: $26,550. And so much more. You can get more at Gateway Dines On Taxpayers.

This is truly disgusting that our Democratic leaders are presenting this as a necessary gift to a billionaire. Isn’t that what’s wrong with our system? Isn’t that why a guy like Donald Trump can attract working class voters?

Because they know they’re being screwed. Not the details as cited above.

But in their gut, they know.

This deal is an accommodation not only to Gilbert but to a certain strata of economic life here. This deal thumbs its nose at a substantial part of our city.

The danger of this accommodation is to a certain strata of economic life. This catering to the needs (really wants) of so-called millennials with money is destructive to the rest of the community—which is the most substantial part of our city.

Do you really care that much if we have more upscale restaurants downtown?

I wrote this letter to the Plain Dealer this week. It was rejected since I had had a letter published within 30 days.

I’d like to ask my Congresswoman Marcia Fudge why the owners of the Quicken Arena, which she says has some 200 “diverse events annually” and draws two million people a year, mostly from outside Cleveland, can’t pay their own costs instead of asking for welfare from Cleveland residents who mostly can’t afford to attend those events? How many other businesses can expect the taxpayer to build them a place of business and improve it on demand?

She’s a poor excuse for a Democratic Congresswoman. But what can you expect from someone who doesn’t need to worry about being re-elected?

By Roldo Bartimole…

[Updated @0403 on 24 May—Sam Allard is possibly the only working journalist in Cleveland: City Council President Kevin Kelley is on Trial, Whether He Likes it or Not.

[Councilman and Mayoral candidate Zack] Reed stated what he’d mentioned to Scene prior to the meeting: that after the afternoon committee meeting, he had ventured to the law department to clarify the petition rejection. In lieu of, or in addition to, a written opinion, Reed had said that he’d like to be briefed by the city lawyers who provided advice to Kelley. (This was initially a suggestion of councilman Terrell Pruitt.) Kelley had seemed to indicate that this wouldn’t be a problem. But when Reed asked for information of the law department, a city lawyer told Reed that Kelley had invoked attorney-client privilege and that Kelley would have to waive that privilege if other city councilpeople wanted to be briefed. It would be difficult to overstate Reed’s bamboozlement at this turn of events. Though he already knew the answer, Reed asked Langhenry if this was indeed the case. Had Kelley really invoked privilege?

“That’s right,” Langhenry said. [Statement obscured by crowd noise, though she seemed to legally endorse attorney-client privilege in this instance.]

Reed then asked Kelley directly if he would waive this privilege “and tell these fine people in the audience [statement obscured by crowd noise] … they want to know from you, Mr. President: What is the reason you rejected their petitions?”

Kelley was getting annoyed. The crowd, boiling over with accumulated boredom and anger, began to chant “We want to know!” Kelley then advised Reed that he was not on trial. “This is miscellaneous,” he said.

“SHAME!!! SHAME!!! SHAME!!!!” The chants from the crowd rose in volume and violence, and the meeting was thus adjourned. The referendum coalition and their allies screamed at Kelley as the council members and the Mayor’s administration gathered their things and processed out.

Kelley said he was not on trial — and he told Scene Tuesday that he’d be surprised if the opposition leadership hadn’t anticipated a legal challenge from the city. “This isn’t on me,” he said — but the impression one can’t help receiving was that he was, and that he is. He is perceived, despite assertions to the contrary, as the lone author of this latest obstruction of citizen action.

The rejection of the Q deal signatures has been called by some a “giant middle finger” in the face of the people of Cleveland and in the face of Democracy itself. And whether it was Kelley, or the Clerk, or some other unseen force at City Hall, at least 20,603 citizens hopped up on activism are mad as hell.

Shame indeed.]

[Updated at 0738 on 23 May—Comment from Roldo:

I think the way to teach a lesson would be for someone to start a recall of the mayor. It’s his law department along with Council’s obscenity.

I think of those 20,000 plus signers. They need some satisfaction.

Hear, Hear! JH]

[Updated at 0710 on 23 May—Due to the gravity of this story, I’ve decided to stick the piece to the top of Have Coffee Will Write for the foreseeable future. Newer, but not related, stories do appear below. JH]

[Updated at 0457 on 23 May—yesterday Cleveland City Council refused to accept the petitions containing the signatures of 20,603 Cleveland voters. Sam Allard, writing in City Council Rejects 20,603 Q Deal Petition Signatures on Questionable Grounds for Scene and Robert Higgs, reporting in City refuses to accept petitions on Quicken Loans Arena referendum for The Plain Dealer, have details.

Predictably, the ignorant and xenophobic comments to Higgs’s story—leading off with this gem from the cowardly troll 1awesome:

Rev. Jawanza Colvin and Rev. Richard Gibson most likely both fake ‘rev’.

are rife, but reasonable people are speaking out.

As of 0630 this morning, this comment was at the top of the queue:

It would not matter anyways even if they had accepted the petitions, the city never would have certified the signatures and when the group would appeal to the board of elections, those morons would have gone along with the lying filthy politicians. I know, I have been on the side of doing what is right only to have the politicians create a technicality and shut down due process, welcome to CORRUPT Cuyahoga County that is ran by liars and thieves whose sole purpose is to fleece the working people.

Roldo left this comment (and signed his name) on Allard’s story:

And they talk about Trump, Putin & Erdogon? Mere pikers to Kelley and Jackson.

Law Director Barbara Langhenry should resign immediately since this is under her domain.

Roldo Bartimole

This isn’t even close to over. JH]


  1. Walt Nicholes says:

    So good, Roldo!

    I hope you are getting max web exposure on these.
    I’m sure you know Steve Holecko of Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus. He would know what to do with these columns.

    I’m writing Fudge too. What a cop out.

    Walt Nicholes

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Good evening Walt,

    First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion by writing a comment. We build our communities with our conversations.

    Second, yes, Steve Holecko is well aware of these columns. I have an arrangement under which each piece is republished on the CCPC blog.


    Jeff Hess

  3. Aaron says:

    I share your concern. The endless handouts by spineless, faux representatives seem to be a trend these days. All they care about is the money. Actually doing their jobs and looking out for the community that supports them is an afterthought.

    Our community “leaders” in the sprawling suburb of Katy Texas were falling all over themselves to hand a 20-year property tax abatement to the 2nd richest guy on the planet. It takes a pillage…

  4. Thanks for your comments Walter, Jeff & Aaron.

    That’s quite a give-away you outline Aaron. Nice job.

    I think the way to teach a lesson would be for someone to start a recall of the mayor. It’s his law department along with Council’s obscenity.

    I think of those 20,000 plus signers. They need some satisfaction.

  5. GoinFawr says:

    These sort of shenanigans cross borders:

    As of last year Edmonton Alberta, Canada has a new stadium for their pro hockey club.

    313 Million CAD is the city taxpayers’ bill for the privilege.

    So, for a city with ~1 mil folks, that’s roughly a $300 hit for every man, woman, and child, or $1500/household, whether they have the money on top of that to buy a ticket to enter the place or not.


  6. Tom says:

    Interesting article concerning Marcia Fudge.

    [Two points Tom.

    First, consider the source. From RationalWiki:

    Zero Hedge is a batshit insane Austrian school finance blog run by two pseudonymous founders who post articles under the name “Tyler Durden,” after the character from Fight Club. It’s essentially apocalypse porn. It has accurately predicted 200 of the last 2 recessions.

    Second, don’t you find the fact that Marcia Fudge is not mentioned in the story fascinating? I’ll chalk this up to sloppy journalism, the kind that would get Tyler an automatic “F” in any of Dr. Dru Evarts’ classes at Ohio University. JH]

  7. ryan says:

    I do not like the proposed new façade no matter who is paying for it.

  8. Jeff Hess says:


    Well there is that, as well.



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