The New Orleans Pelicans will launch a developmental-league team before the start of the 2018-19 season, but first, they have to decide where it’ll go. Five cities were initially vying for the right to join the NBA’s minor league (which recently rebranded to serve as an advertisement for a sports drink company), and now it’s down to Pensacola and Shreveport. The Pelicans will apparently announce the winner in September, which is also when Shreveport will decide whether or not to go forward with one of the saddest and dumbest arena financing deals in recent memory.
As the Shreveport Times reported, Mayor Ollie Tyler announced plans to move forward with a $100 million complex in downtown Shreveport. More details will be revealed at a city council meeting tonight, but the complex is a mixed-use deal, which will include a 3,000-seat arena as well as condos, shops, and a sports complex. Tyler’s plan calls for the city to kick in $30 million of public money. When the council was asked to approve a non-binding resolution regarding $25 million for the complex earlier this year, only one councilman dissented. That’s an ominous sign, as is the lack of transparency demonstrated by revealing the plan to the public literally the same week it’s being voted on.
While that $30 million figure pales in comparison with some of the fouler arena deals out there, it’s important to remember that this is a minor league team in a city with a history of failed and under-supported sports teams, such as the Shreveport Swamp Dragons, the Shreveport-Bossier Battle Wings, and the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks. Perhaps fringe NBA players are better draws than peripheral baseball and football teams, but the arena is still on the small side and it’s not a done deal that fans will come out for, say, Cheick Diallo.
More importantly, Shreveport has much more pressing needs than a minor league basketball team. Take for example the city’s disastrous infrastructure system, which needs a major overhaul. The state of Louisiana still faces a looming budget crisis thanks in large part to moronic ex-governor Bobby Jindal, and one councilman’s concerns speak to Shreveport’s more pressing needs.
Councilman Jerry Bowman said he’s interested in hearing about the projected economic development opportunities the complex could bring. He mentioned, too, that most of his constituents’ concerns are on city issues other than the complex.
“The emails I’ve been getting from citizens are concerns about ongoing things in their communities, streets, violent crime, infrastructure,” Bowman said.
It’s one thing to overpay for an arena when your city is full of fans and you’re at least bringing in something that people want. But there’s no need or even desire to pay up to bring the Junior Pelicans to town, especially when the city could use that public money on a variety of other, more pressing projects.