Bases loaded, two strikes

It’s very difficult to decide how this new agreement by the Reno City Council on the Reno Aces baseball stadium should feel.

On the one hand, it would be pretty hard to find someone in this city who would have been happy to hear that the council refused any agreement with the stadium and team’s owners and developers. Most people like the team, like the energy downtown, and occasionally like to catch a game—even those who don’t like baseball.

On the other hand, this community has been through some very hard times. We’re digging deep just to pay for services that should never even be questioned. Look at the streets. We’re seeing potholes of a size and quantity that we haven’t seen in years. Huge swaths of our business community have been shuttered. There’s a large contingent in this community that believes we should be taking care of our own small businesses long before we’re renegotiating deals with big out-of-state developers to sweeten an already sweet deal that the developers themselves undermined by not following through with promises, like further development.

In fact, it’s exactly as Jerry Katzoff had the gall to say to the Council, as reported by Brian Duggan in the Reno Gazette-Journal: “The problem is there’s too much debt on the baseball team because we haven’t got any subsidies.”

Councilmember Sharon Zadra called him on that statement, pointing out that it was the economy that came between the developers and subsidized profits. And yet, she voted in favor of the new proposal, which to this newspaper’s jaded eyes, seemed very similar to the agreement she and others took off the table back in November. So this newspaper called her to ask exactly what changed enough to make her change her mind.

She expressed the sentiments that we basically expressed above: Baseball is good for and popular in the community. She said she’d had problems with almost every deal that had gone before, specifically demanding that payments from the Reno Redevelopment Agency come from RDA-1 (the redevelopment district near the stadium) rather than Reno’s second redevelopment district. That didn’t happen in prior deals, she said. There are things that she absolutely does not like about this deal and still need to be corrected.

“I’m voting for the first five years of this deal,” she said. “And if [those] guys don’t live up to all of the conditions that we put forward and don’t continue to work with us on bettering the deal, when we have to jump to the $1.5 million—which could theoretically be after my time [Zadra may run for mayor]—I want it clearly understood that it not be from general fund, that those dollars continue to come from the RDA, and it not be at the risk of any of our services, and the day that happens, that we’re not recovering the money that is coming to us from the RDA or the higher loan obligation that we’re in right now …we’ll get out of that loan. That’s what I voted in favor of, nothing more.”

Every year, financing of the deal will come before the council. Every year, we will have the opportunity to say yea or nay. But each year, as the city gets more invested, it will get progressively more difficult to say nay.