B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘Houston’ tag

The Houston Stadium Grift

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Fire hydrant Flood on Randolph

Speaking of corporate welfare and taxpayer money, professional sports owners are worse than college sports organizations, if that is even possible. We’ve long fulminated at this infuriating trend of billionaire team owners stealing tax dollars from cities, usually with a wink-and-nod from the local politicians.

Dave Zirin of The Nation notes that the City of Houston shoveled money to Lamar Alexander, money that could be spent on more practical matters, like cleaning up after a flood, or purchasing homes in flood plains and reverting them back to flood plains…

Taxpayer-subsidized stadiums have long become a substitute for anything resembling urban policy in the 21st century. And now as roads, bridges, and humanitarian shelters decay, they stand exposed as neoliberal Trojan horses that take public dollars and magically transform them into private profit for billionaire sports owners. They are a scam, a con, and, not surprisingly, a grifter like Osteen has long had his hand in this honey pot.

[Money-changer-in-the-temple Joel] Osteen’s church was once a hoops hallowed ground called The Summit, home of the Houston Rockets and the site of the magic made by Hakeem Olajuwon and his 1994 and 1995 teams that won back-to-back NBA titles. In 1995, flush with this success, Rockets owner Les Alexander demanded a new sports arena from the city. These negotiations eventually resulted in the Toyota Center, which opened in 2003, even though the city voted down this plan in a 1999 referendum. In the end, the people of Houston paid $182 million of the $235 million in construction costs. Toyota paid $100 million in naming rights, all of which went to Les Alexander.

That was just the beginning. Texas taxpayers have continuously paid for upgrades in the subsequent years. In 2013, the public even paid for a new $8 million scoreboard to help prepare Houston for the NBA All-Star Game. (Imagine what that $8 million could be used for right now.)

I spoke to Neal DeMause who runs the stadium news site Field of Schemes. He said, “In a sane world, the city of Houston would still own The Summit, rather than have replaced it at public expense so the Rockets owner could have a shinier plaything, and could make its own decisions about how to use it in emergencies. I suppose it’s a small silver lining that the scads of redundant sports facilities littering the landscape make for a surplus of good disaster shelters now—though if cities would spend billions of dollars a year on flood proofing and reducing carbon emissions instead of subsidizing sports venues, they’d probably get better bang for their buck.”

The Rockets-Osteen connection is tragically just a microcosm in Houston of what tax-funded stadium priorities have produced. The Houston Texans were handed $289 million of public financing for their stadium, with minimal debate. They even took $50 million in public funding just for 2017 Super Bowl renovations. That money went into “installing Wi-Fi in the stadium and upgrad[ing] the club and suite areas of the building.”

As for Les Alexander, he just announced that he was selling the Rockets for a staggering $2 billion. Alexander bought the team in 1993 for $85 million. There is no way Alexander would be able to command that asking price without the public subsidies and new arenas underwritten by the city of Houston.

(click here to continue reading The Houston Stadium Grift Comes Home to Roost | The Nation.)

Vinyl Bird - Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, TX
Vinyl Bird – Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, TX

I am of the opinion that billionaire sports team owners should be embarrassed to ask for handouts from municipalities, and should be able to pay for their own damn stadiums. Or else, sell their team to the city, like the Green Bay Packers.

Hoop Dream
Hoop Dream

Oh, and what about sports stadiums automatically being used as shelters, as was once proposed

Written by Seth Anderson

September 2nd, 2017 at 9:01 am

Public Park as Part of 150 N Riverside

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Streaking Home Streaking Home

As part of an interesting discussion of the planned development on Randolph and the Chicago River, 150 N. Riverside, we read this aside about Boeing’s infamous unfriendliness to civilians and tourists…

[Alderman Brendan] Reilly has been emphatic in noting that this will be a public park, not a publicly accessible private park. When Hines finally agreed to build its park at River Point, the Texas developer tried to start negotiations over how many days a year it would be available to the public. Reilly said words to the effect of “Homey don’t play that” and sent Hines packing until it realized that Chicago isn’t Houston and you can’t just build whatever you want without regard to the neighbors.

The Hines park will now be open all year round.

Neighbors, however, are worried that the the 150 North Riverside park will be significantly less than promised. They don’t want a repeat of what’s going on one block to the south at the Boeing building. When the Seattle aircraft maker moved here, what used to be a nice, welcoming public plaza became a fortress with security guards harassing the locals for walking through what’s supposed to be a public riverwalk, threatening tourists for the imaginary crime of camera possession, and keeping the place behind locked gates more often than it is open. That is also the case up the street, where the residential development north of Kinzie Street keeps the public riverwalk locked up. If you want to legally access it, you must go to a security office and ask a guard to unlock it for you.

The developer is trying to assuage the locals fears by promising to deed the 150 park to the city. But then he repeatedly states the park will be open “dawn to dusk.” City parks are open until 11pm. And it’s not like city parks have a stellar track record of openness, access, and not trying chasing tourists away because they’re holding cameras. When it’s not snowing, there are parts of Millennium Park repeatedly locked off for private events, and some parts that are closed to the public for big corporations for months at a time.

(click here to continue reading Grand Plans for “Millennium Park Lite” Come With West Loop Office Tower | The Chicago Architecture Blog.)

Photography is not legal at Boeing either Photography is not legal at Boeing either

Really, if you are walking through this area with a camera, Boeing’s guards (some of whom have weapons on display) will come to full attention, and gods forbid if you step towards their building with your camera at the ready. A very, very unfriendly neighbor, to say the least. Many, many years ago when I was a dew-faced young lad, I worked a temporary job here, when Morton Salt’s HQ was here (or nearby, memory is a funny thing) – I remember sitting by the Chicago River eating my lunch in a pleasant, public plaza. You would probably have to duck bullets if you tried this today, or at any time since Boeing moved in circa 2001.

Golden Plowshares Golden Plowshares

Back to 150 N Riverside: we are personally not opposed to a new development here, especially if Alderman Reilly can enforce the public park aspect of the plan. The Loop, west, and the West Loop areas are drastically underserved by greenspace. In an ideal world, 150 N Riverside aka 400 W Randolph wouldn’t be a building at all, instead, the City of Chicago could construct an elevated public park above the tracks, just like Millennium Park itself! But we are realists, so that’s simply a fantasy.

For your amusement, a few other photos of the general area in question, as it looks today. Double click to embiggen…

Waiting for the 216

Waiting for the 216

Transport is Arranged Transport is Arranged

train yard train yard

Merchandise Mart Negative Scan 9-10-12 Merchandise Mart Negative Scan 9-10-12

Misdirected Remarks - Agfa Scala Misdirected Remarks – Agfa Scala

Dusk in River North Dusk in River North

Map of the block

 

 

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Written by Seth Anderson

August 2nd, 2013 at 8:03 am