Arena column postscript

A poor town with big ambitions built a waterfront arena.

Leaders compromised the city fiscally to pay for it (and the ballpark, and the rest of the Events Center). They were reaching for the stars. But they didn’t understand the facility would occupy a problematic position in the regional concert market.

Some call it a classic case of government proving its ineptitude outside of its ken. They say government should provide drinking water and public safety and a short list of other basic services and leave it at that.

But the arena is also a failure of government inside its ken. On top of the foolish fiscals, leaders ignored the Urban Land Institute’s warning not to build the thing with 100% public money. The whole point was to spark private investment downtown. But Stockton’s leaders knew better. 

I expect SMG will improve the arena’s performance incrementally over the years. But even SMG can’t change the market. From here it’s impossible to see that venue getting enough entertainers and events to jusifty its $69 million cost. It’s like paying $180,000 for a Ferarri and never getting to drive it over 45 mph.

One can go places at 45 mph. Good places. Still, after observing the arena for years, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Stockton simply should not have built it.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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