Sports Investments May Hurt City Budget

December 13, 2008 12:10:54 AM PST
The city of Fresno spent 13 million renovating Selland arena to welcome the Fresno Falcons back downtown. But attendance is off by about a thousand paying fans a game. The team lost a million dollars last year, this year's losses could be greater. Team owners are trying to get out from under those losses.Falcons General Manger John Tull says, " They've been in discussions for a long time pursuing different options, whether it's a non-profit entity and turning the team into a non-profit and operating it as a non- profit, either themselves or possibly with the city of Fresno."

Under the lease for Selland ownership of the team reverts to the city, if the owners pull out. It's a concern to city council member Mike Dages.

"We're not in the business to own hockey teams and baseball teams and stadiums or ice rinks or anything else." He said.

Dages is worried the financial burden of the Falcons and Granite Park will hit the city hard.

"It's really kind of sad, because we have a new mayor in a few weeks and she is going to have to figure out what to do for the taxpayers on this when we are getting ready to lose five million dollars." He said.

Incoming Mayor Ashley Swearengin won't speculate on the city's potential to lose millions on the deals with the falcons, or Granite Park. Saying:"Well, I'm not going to second guess decisions that were made in the past, but obviously there are a lot of factors going into next years budget we're just going to have to be very careful."

The city is expecting legal action over the now abandoned playing fields at Granite Park and the uninstalled amusement park rides. A decision on the future of the Falcons is expected in weeks.

John Tull says, "Everybody is going to do everything possible to make sure hockey stays right downtown in Selland Arena, but quite frankly now that we're two months into the season, the clock is ticking as to what those options are."

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