Sports stadium scams don’t just occur in the big leagues. There’s a nasty case of taxpayer fleecing going on in Reno right now concerning the city’s minor league baseball team. The details of the situation are very complex, but the gist of it is this–
In 2008, SK Baseball and Nevada Land broke ground on a new stadium for the team they co-owned that would eventually be named the Reno Aces. The $55 million stadium was partially financed with $30 million in Washoe County issued bonds that were backed by a 2% tax on rental cars. In addition, Nevada Land asked the city of Reno to kick in $2 million per year for the next 20 years to help fund an entertainment district surrounding the new stadium (Aces Park). That public contribution was to be paid back by Nevada Land in the form of property taxes. However, Nevada Land has been delinquent on its taxes since the stadium opened and now owes the local and state governments $1.6 million.
The billionaire Aces owners are now looking to the public to bail them out. The owners want the public to help refinance their distressed $55 million construction loan that’s due in 14 months. They specifically want the public to kick in $1.5 million per year for the next 30 years. Or, the owners propose, just increase the rental car tax by another 2%. Understandably, the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority is expressing concerns, as travelers are already paying for the stadium and increasing taxes could turn away business.
Sports Fans Coalition Executive Director Brian Frederick testified before Congress that rental car taxes are one of the primary ways that wealthy sports owners funnel public money into private coffers. Eliminating rental car excise taxes “will help shift the responsibility back toward sports team owners to privately finance stadiums,” Frederick said. (You can read Frederick’s written testimony here.)
The Reno City Council is expected to consider SK Baseball’s proposal at a meeting today. We’ll keep you posted.