A New 76ers Arena Should Be Privately Financed

USA Today Sports

Josh Harris is like a horse trying to play the piano… he hits every wrong note.

Just months after raising ticket prices for fans and months after being shamed by their superstar center to sheepishly roll back a planned 20% cut for salaried employees, information regarding the 76ers plans for a new arena on Penn’s Landing broke earlier this week in which the franchise will reportedly use taxpayer support in part to fund construction, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 76ers are gearing up plans for a new arena, as their lease with the Wells Fargo Center ends in 2031. The 76ers noted they do not expect to request direct tax appropriation from the city or the state for the project, as it would be financed through a state program called a Neighborhood Improvement Zone, which permits the approval of development bonds based on future tax revenues generated by business in its designated area.

Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym publicly derided the plan on Twitter:

And she’s right! Philadelphia tax dollars should go nowhere near this potential plan. Private financing should be the end all be all for any potential arena plan put forth by franchise ownership.

Harris is worth $4.8 billion, according to Forbes. He owns the New Jersey Devils. He owns 18% of Crystal Palace F.C., an English Premier League team. Harris and David Blitzer offered $1.4 billion to purchase the Mets in June. He’s suddenly too cash strapped to entertain privately funding a new arena in Philadelphia? The coffers are dwindling and moths are pitifully flying out of his barren pockets?

Owners should absolutely privately finance their own stadiums and more are treading down this route. The Golden State Warriors are privately funding the construction of their own new arena. Ownership for the New York Giants and Jets privately-financed construction of the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium monstrosity. Los Angeles Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke, whose personal wealth is valued at $8.3 billion by Forbes, is putting up $1.6 billion of his own money to help fund the most expensive planned stadium in NFL history.

What’s up, Harris? You’re really going to let Kroenke show you up like that?

I get it. You don’t become a billionaire by spending money… you take advantage of the opportunities around you. The 76ers were recipients of an $82 million tax break from the State of New Jersey in 2014 when they built their training facility on the Camden waterfront. The franchise does not pay taxes on any improvements to the property for the first 10 years, according to an WHYY report, and will begin paying full taxes by years 11 to 20. The 76ers currently pay about $45,000 a year in taxes for the facility.

But to hold out your hand for city tax relied to help finance an even more expensive arena in Philadelphia, a city that currently can’t even afford to pick up its garbage properly each week due to costs and expenses from the pandemic, is insane. Maybe Harris is secretly hoping Joel Embiid will step in for Philadelphia taxpayers and offer to foot their bill like he did for salaried employees in March when he offered to personally fund the franchise’s planned reduction in their pay? And then hold him to the legally binding verbal agreement when he takes him up on his offer (and still probably asks for additional taxpayer funding, who are we kidding).

Now is not the time to try and dip into the public til to fund your arena, Joshy. You want to save on expenses? Use some of the leftover playoff bricks from Al Horford and Tobias Harris to cut down on materials. Leave the taxpayers alone and use the $1.4 billion you’re planning to waste on the Mets to build a new facility for the 76ers.