Letter: Sports arenas bad public investment

The unreasonable demands of Islanders owner Charles Wang, The unreasonable demands of Islanders owner Charles Wang, after the Town of Hempstead denied permits for the Lighthouse Project, was a final offer to the taxpayers that included a public bond issue. (Oct. 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Joye Brown is right on spot in her discussion of the future of the Nassau Coliseum and its surrounding area ["Nassau can't afford to lose," News Column, March 15].

The unreasonable demands of Islanders owner Charles Wang, after the Town of Hempstead denied permits for the Lighthouse Project, was a final offer to the taxpayers that included a public bond issue.

This country is littered with sports arenas that were built on failed promises and abandoned by the teams they were built to support, leaving a legacy debt of unpaid bonds. The Houston Astrodome, cited as the Eighth Wonder of the World by the Astros' original owner, was left millions in debt when the Astros and Oilers left. Last used to house those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, it costs the local county $2.4 million in annual debt payments.

While a great deal was made of the private funding that went into the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, tax-free bonds were made available to build the parking garages through a public benefit corporation. Today, that entity, the Bronx Parking Development Corp., is a few pennies short of bankruptcy.

While many bemoan the loss of the Islanders to Brooklyn, taxpayers have a right to question the true cost of maintaining such facilities. In these economic times, when many local governments are desperately trying to keep the lights on, perhaps it's time to reconsider opportunities that afford team owners and players an easy path to great wealth, at taxpayer expense.

James P. Kelly, Patchogue

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Editor's note: The writer is an adjunct professor of political science at St. Joseph's College.

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