Stadia Watch

Now that the voters have spoken, Stadia Watch humbly offers this prediction: rejection of the proposed HISD bond offering will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the stadia boys to win public approval of any funding scheme involving taxpayers' dollars. Not only will they have to contend with the expected opposition from the likes of Barry "I'm Against It, Whatever It Is" Klein and his cohorts in Gadflies Inc., but it's unlikely that the parents and others who supported HISD will be in the mood to accommodate our mercurial sports franchise owners and would-be owners while schoolkids go wanting -- especially in light of the fact that neither Les Alexander nor Drayton McLane Jr. nor John Jay Moores saw fit to chip in so much as a word on behalf of the school construction bonds. Of course, if we work real hard at it, Houston could become as cosmopolitan as Nashville, which has turned down two school-construction proposals in recent years but gladly bent itself over to oblige the mangy Bud Adams.

Whatever details are finally worked out by Mayor Bob Lanier and County Judge Robert Eckels to pay for the $625 million plan, user fees are likely to account for a significant amount of the funding. Those could include a new ticket tax (an extra dollar on each seat, perhaps) and a parking surcharge (maybe another dollar or two), as well as PSLs, or Personal Seat Licenses. A PSL is essentially a non-refundable fee, ranging from $500 to more than $5,000, that would give the holder the privilege of buying a decent seat to see the Rockets, Astros or whatever (if anything) replaces the Oilers. PSLs for the NFL's Carolina Panthers (average price: $2,234) raised $140 million toward Charlotte's new stadium; Miami fans paid out about $117 million up-front for a privately built stadium there. But there's more than one hitch in relying on PSLs for financing. Astros owner McLane, whose revenues are more dependent on high attendance figures, has made it known that he'll oppose any plan that puts too heavy a burden on the fans. And while PSLs have funded football stadiums, their use as a funding source for baseball parks and basketball arenas is unprecedented. "That has not come up before," says Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin, who believes baseball would cast a skeptical eye on the use of PSLs. "Keeping tickets affordable is a priority of baseball," explains Levin. Which is fine for the user/fan, but maybe not such a good deal for everybody else.

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