Spectacular Fail on the Horizon
Another financial boondoggle coming up soon, just so Rahm has a ribbon to cut:
- After enduring 15 years of shrinking convention attendance and persistent budget difficulties, the government agency that owns Chicago's sprawling McCormick Place convention center is trying to outgrow its problems through a $650 million expansion.
What's the first Rule for Holes? "When you're in one, stop digging."
- The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, known as McPier, is betting that the project now under construction — a second hotel and an arena to showcase DePaul University's basketball team — will draw more conventions, attract sports fans and transform a barren section of Chicago into a vibrant entertainment district. City and McPier officials predict the expansion will bring $250 million in new spending to the area each year.
Gee, shrinking convention business? Let's build another hotel with rooms we won't fill! And a losing private university team? Let's split the cost of building them a new stadium with seats they have no hope of filling! All of this based on what exactly?
- But the Tribune found that McPier's formula for success is based on a series of optimistic and risky predictions.
The $250 million figure comes from a McPier-funded study that assumes DePaul fans will fill almost all of the arena's 10,000 seats for games — nearly tripling the team's recent average attendance. The Blue Demons, who now play in suburban Rosemont, haven't had a winning record since 2007.
McPier officials also are hoping that, between basketball games, the arena will host convention meetings, concerts and other events, bringing new guests to the planned hotel, a 1,200-room, $450 million Marriott Marquis. But a recent study commissioned in New York found that sports facilities are unattractive to conventions because of their fixed seating, a sentiment some convention officials also expressed to the Tribune.
No one thought to commission these "studies" before pouring $650 million into what is undoubtedly a hole in the ground? $650 million that just happens to match the pension balloon payment due by State Law? Where do we sign up for this stupidity?