“We want the NBA in here because we think that is a drawing card we cannot pass up,” Tyler told KTAL-TV in an exclusive interview
Tyler is banking on getting the nod of the Tom Benson family that his New Orleans Pelicans G League team will select Shreveport as its new home. That is the key to private money for the development, according to Tyler.
Tyler says the city’s taxpayers will spend $27.1 million to build a 3,200-seat arena, designed for basketball, and Corporate Reality out of Birmingham, Alabama, will make a $139 million investment in the rest of the development.
It’s a calculated gamble, Tyler admits, backed by months of research by her administration. That begs the question: Who’s doing the research?
Opponents to the project say that putting all of your eggs in a sports basket is a risky business. Since 1970, Shreveport has seen 16 sports franchises in football, baseball, and basketball come to the city. They all perished for lack of fan support.
The most recent one is the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks of the American Basketball Association. They won 92 games in a row and two league championships, and still people would not turn out for the games.
Opponents also point out that issues of public safety and infrastructure far outweigh the development and that the money should be used to lure companies bringing guaranteed jobs.
Others say that a sports complex is not the sort of thing you pursue when you are already facing hundreds of millions of debt, an A3 bond rating, and a negative credit outlook.
And Liz Swaine, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), also poses a question about the development.
She says: “Does the energy and money that the city will expend on the sports complex mean that things like the Shreveport Aquarium and Sci-Port, Shreveport Common, basic downtown infrastructure needs and initiatives to save downtown buildings might get less attention?”
The DDA has not yet taken an official position on the development. Discuss below
Louisiana city seeks New Orleans Pelicans, sports ops, for economic development
If Shreveport is selected for the Pelicans G League team, how solid a commitment will that mean from the wealthy Benson family. It is a new team in the Gatorade or G League, formerly called the D League.
“The Benson family is just sitting back waiting to see if Shreveport really wants them to come in and invest in this community,” Tyler said.. The other city in the running is Pensacola, Florida.
There were several cities interested in the G-League team in the beginning, but apparently decided that the investment involved was not worth it. Perhaps they looked at Mobile, Alabama. Its D League (now G-League) team folded after its second season despite the fact that it had a winning record and even won the league championship.
The fan support was just not there.