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Anything but basketball

A story we haven't really followed at all is Abe Pollin's quest to get additional funding to use to upgrade the Verizon Center.  Today, he took a major step forward in getting it.  

In a 9 to 2 vote, the council favored borrowing the funds so that Pollin and his company can purchase a $5 million scoreboard and make other improvements to the nearly 10-year-old arena. The city plans to raise the tax on tickets and merchandise at the downtown arena to repay bonds issued for the project. The council must take a second, final vote on the request.   

Under legislation that Pollin sought in January, the tax rate on tickets at the 20,674-seat arena would increase from 5.75 percent to 10 percent -- the same percentage for tickets and merchandise at Washington Nationals baseball games.

I'm not really sure why the Verizon Center needs an upgrade already, to be honest.  It is only ten years old, and it's already hosted the ACC Tournament and the NCAA regional finals, in addition to Wizards games.  

Spence is also not a huge fan of the news.

I must say, however, that spending $50 million to upgrade an arena that is privately-owned and less than 10 years old strikes me as odd. The District has crippling education, crime, and poverty problems -- isn't it possible there could be a better use for $50 million than spending it on a super-rich developer like Abe Pollin?

And what about the precedent this sets? Now that Pollin has demanded and received $50 million from the DC Council, what is to stop other private business owners from demanding deals of their own? Does the DC government really want to be handing out taxpayer money to private businesses, even -- or especially -- if there is no evidence those businesses are struggling and need the cash?

HT: DC Sports Blog.