clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

You're still paying a lot of money to save the Pittsburgh Penguins

New, comments

The Penguins threatened Pennsylvania with relocation so they'd get free money for their new arena. 15 years earlier, the Flyers kindly turned down out-of-state money and built their arena without public funds.

Justin K. Aller

If you're a Pennsylvania taxpayer, you'll be paying more for Pittsburgh's hockey arena than originally anticipated. From Thursday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Under the 2007 deal cut to build Consol Energy Center, the state's contribution was set at $7.5 million annually for 30 years, but in reality, taxpayers have ponied up far more than that and likely will be on the hook for even more in the years ahead.

Since 2009, state taxpayers have shelled out an extra $5.08 million to cover shortfalls in the money needed to pay off the debt on the $321 million arena, and the state is estimating that it will need another $5.6 million over the next five years for the very same purpose.

That's in addition to the annual $7.5 million in payments the state is contractually obligated to make.

Just a friendly reminder: When the Wells Fargo Center (then called Spectrum II, and eventually Corestates Center) was built between 1994 and 1996, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contributed basically zero (0) dollars of American currency for its construction. Ed Snider and Spectacor secured private financing for the entire ~$210 million cost of the building -- roughly $337 million in 2014 dollars -- and even today, Spectacor leases the land the building sits on from the city.

The taxpayers did pay for some necessary infrastructure improvements around the Sports Complex area, including the ~$5 million expense to knock down the old JFK Stadium, which sat on the land now occupied by the WFC. Ultimately the public contribution to the project was a stack of pennies compared to the $7.5 million+ per year for 30 (!) years that Pennsylvania taxpayers are shelling out to keep the Penguins in the state -- much of which comes from the affluent eastern half of the state.

(The Penguins did have an agreement with a casino developer in 2006 which would have brought a $290 million arena, privately financed, to Pittsburgh. That casino developer was not awarded a gaming license by the state and therefore the plan to build the arena fell through, which immediately led to threats of relocation from Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. If you're interested there more on that, and Gov. Ed Rendell's awkward position in the middle of it, here.)

Even more impressive, though, is that while the Penguins used relocation to Kansas City and Quebec as a dang negotiating tactic to bleed more money from the state for Consol Energy Center, Snider easily could've moved the Flyers out of the state. In fact, a move to New Jersey may have been the financially smart decision.

In the early 90s, when the Spectrum II plan was still up in the air, Spectacor had an offer from Jersey officials to move the team across the river to Camden, and the state would've paid two-thirds of the construction cost. Philly couldn't match that offer because it was damn broke, but Snider still balked at New Jersey because he didn't want to move out of the city. He then went on to nail down the financing on his own.

So if you want a real-world, off-ice reason to hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, there you go.

***

some research from Adam Kimelman's The Good, The Bad & The Ugly history of the Flyers