Cleveland council stalls final vote on improvements at The Q

CLEVELAND, Ohio – City Council on Monday put off for a week the final vote on whether to commit $88 million in public money toward upgrades at Quicken Loans Arena. 

The ordinance that would have approved the move was to have had a third and final reading Monday, but council President Kevin Kelley held it off the agenda after some members requested more time to discuss it. 

Kelley declined to say which members made the request. But as it stands now, the ordinance likely will get a final vote next Monday. 

What’s the project?  

The project will involve $140-million in upgrades to The Q that will dramatically alter the facility’s appearance, creating more space for dining, bars and public gathering. The Cavaliers contend that the work will keep the 22-year-old arena competitive with other cities as they vie for major concert acts and other shows.  

The Cavaliers have agreed to extend their lease as part of the deal, committing the team to home games in the arena until at least 2034.  

The costs of the project will be shared by the Cavaliers, Cuyahoga County, Destination Cleveland and the city of Cleveland. 

The total cost of financing the project over 17 years is estimated to be about $282 million.  

Cleveland’s contribution is estimated at $8 million a year over 11 years, beginning in 2024. The money will be raised through admissions taxes collected on ticket sales at The Q.   

Cleveland collects that money now and diverts a portion of it toward debt service on the arena. Those bonds will be paid off in 2023, allowing the city to then divert the money to debt service on the upgrades.  

What happened last week? 

The deal has the support of some labor groups and the NAACP, who say it is important for construction jobs and long-term job growth. 

Some community advocacy groups – Greater Cleveland Congregations and the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus – lobbied against the project.  

Cleveland, they said, has more pressing issues that should be addressed, such as violence, unemployment and poverty in some of its neighborhoods before the city considers improvements on the downtown arena.  

Last week, the ordinance endorsing the plan fell one vote short of the 12 votes needed to suspend the rule that it get three readings and approve it as an emergency.     

Had it been put to a vote Monday, it appeared it could have enough votes to pass, but did not appear that it would have been supported by more than 11 members of council.  

The six members who opposed suspending the rules – Zack Reed from Ward 2, TJ Dow from Ward 7, Mike Polensek from Ward 8, Kevin Conwell from Ward 9, Jeff Johnson from Ward 10 and Brian Cummins from Ward 14 – all remained in opposition. 

That’s important, because without a 12th vote, the ordinance would not take effect for 30 days, perhaps delaying the start of the project. The Cavaliers have said they want construction to start this summer. Cuyahoga County will have to sell bonds needed to raise construction money. 

Cuyahoga County already has agreed to sell the construction bonds. But the current plan calls for Cleveland’s admission tax revenues down the road to help repay those bonds.  

What happens next?  

Kelley said after the meeting he had been ready to put the ordinance up for a vote, but held back at the request of some council members. He intends to have the measure on the agenda next week. 

What remains to be seen is whether any of the opponents of the deal seek a referendum to repeal the city’s approval of the plan. Such an effort could not begin until after an ordinance is approved by council.

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