Monday, February 20, 2006

Half a billion dollars

I'll cut to the chase--no.

Sunday's Tennessean does their usual side-by-side pro v. con guest columnists about the proposed $445 million convention center. I don't find a link to those columns on their website.

Let's start by just rounding that price tag to Half a Billion Dollars--cause you know there are going to be cost overruns--always are and I'll be surprise if it's contained to just Half a Billion. That 445 million price tag seems a lot like that $199.95 price tag on a new television. The retailer doesn't want us to think it's $200 so they price it just below to avoid that pause for the wallet that the number "2" is likely to create. Well, I'm going to call it Half A Billion and hope that it does cause a pause.

Next I'll apply what's becoming a litmus test for commentators for me--where does Mr. Kelly live? I know he has a very successful business near this project and he freely admitted in his column that:

"This past week, on weeknights that can be slow this time of year, Jimmy Kelly's was busier because of convention traffic."

and so he has a vested interest in advocating for additional traffic near his business. But will he end up footing the bill for this as a resident of Davidson County?

And I take issue with Mr. Kelly's 'out of the gate' statement that "Nashville had nearly $50 million lifted from its pocket." It was never in our pocket to be stolen in the first place. We haven't lost a thing. This thinking reminds me very much like the foolish folks I've known (and been) that say "But I saved $100" after putting a $500 dollar item on the credit card. You didn't 'save' anything, dearie AND you're losing money every day because you're paying interest to boot.

If what Mr. Kelly writes is true "visitor spending has become a critical component of our economic structure." I suggest this is a problem and needs adjustment anyway. We certainly don't need to have a 'critical' portion of our economic health dependent upon something as uncertain as whether folks can afford the non-essentials of conventions, vacations and sports events. Aren't these the things that are first cut in a economic downturn?

I agree with much Ben Cunningham has written against this proposal. The one phrase of his that jumped out at me was:

"...the convention will do absolutely nothing to enhance the lives of the great majority of the 500,000+ citizens of Davidson County."

This has been my experience with the GEC, the current convention center, the Titan's stadium and will most likely be the same for the baseball stadium. These are just not places this family has been to more than a handful of times. BUT I do get to pay higher taxes for the privilege of hosting these venues. I will get to pay an extra tax on the food we do purchase at restaurants. Restaurants that, I assure you, are much lower on the scale than Jimmy Kelly's. I will have to deal with the increased use of public services by these out-of-towners. Kinda reminds me of the poor couple who thought owning a beach house was a great idea until the relatives started making vacation plans.

Finally, I'll add that the shame is not in being a smaller venue. The shame is in being a bad small venue. Sometimes the most successful business are those smaller niche ones like a family business that found what it could do well and is consistently relied on and appreciated by the community for its excellent service.

No comments: