One Issue Recap – Sale of LeLacheur Park to UMass
Lacking other options and thus any leverage, the Council voted 11-0 to sell LeLacheur to UMass Lowell for One Million Dollars.
The vote was the culmination of approximately 18 months of negotiation between the city and the university for transfer of the property.
I should think that the majority of citizens would agree that this was a deal that needed to be struck. I thought Councilor Drinkwater said it best in noting that the ballpark is a “good asset to have” but “not a good asset to own.” Without a tenant, the maintenance of the park is a drain on the taxpayer that we simply can’t afford. In allowing the university to take it over, the deal potentially represents a “win-win” scenario. The city gets rid of a liability, retains the rights to some use (HS graduations, 4th of July, etc.), and the University has the opportunity to give the park and surrounding area new life. If you need convincing of UMass’ ability to pull this off, you haven’t been to a River Hawks game lately.
Hopefully our foray into the ballpark business serves as a cautionary tale for other municipalities spellbound by the idea of partnering with or luring sports franchises. There is ample research that these deals are almost always a bad proposition for the taxpayer. See the excellent resource Field of Schemes for loads of data on this subject.
Cities generally justify these decisions, and convince taxpayers of their benefit, by touting the economic boon that entertainment dollars will bring in. However, they simply redirect how leisure dollars are spent. The proposition gets worse when the sports team holds the city hostage for a better deal, or closes shop and leaves town for better opportunities. Last night, Councilor Yem put it well, noting that the city should not “be in the business of owning a baseball field.”
Nevertheless, our ordeal is now almost at an end. Highlights of the deal are as follows: