$60 million: Arena vs. Parks

Lets do a bit of a thought exercise on what the opportunity cost of a new arena would be. I consider this a thought exercise because we must start with some unrealistic assumptions


  1. City Operating Budget is stable – (it is not)
  2. Capital Maintenance of roads is planned for – (it is not)
  3. Transit Plan is funded – (it is not)
  4. Staff needs are funded – (they are not)
  5. Affordable Housing can meet community needs – (it can not)
  6. Library capital needs are addressed – (they are not)
  7. Broadband & Smart-grid Infrastructure are in place – (they are not)
  8. Chateau Theater is funded – (it is not)
  9. Existing city supported non-profits are stable – (they are not)

I then wanted to compare the cost of building an arena to the cost of implementing our parks masterplan (another competing use of funds). The chart below does just that.

The first column shows the possible funding sources for the arena. The second column is simply the cost of the arena. The third column represents almost the entirety of the projects in the parks masterplan priorities. For good measure I added a few of my own projects.

Part of the reason why I think we need to look at all future investments is because while all the parks improvements are smaller I believe it is possible that the end results would be a higher quality of living in the community.

One last thought on the funding sources for the arena. $26.5 million would come from Rochester taxpayers. These are in red. Of the other $33.5 million I am skeptical that we really could get $10 million in naming rights. I certainly could be wrong on that, but we would see. When I see $5.5 million in “other” I can only assume 2 things. Either it will still come from taxpayers or else someone like a Mayo, who funded this study would kick in some capital. Lastly I am highly skeptical of the $18 million in private capital. If this is actually TIF captured from private development projects that is not actually private equity, it is more tax payer contributions.

Arena Cost photo Arena Compare_zps93oy9qjl.jpg

Here is how much each of those park related items would cost. The total amount of the funded projects equals the same $60 million as an arena.

 photo Arena Compare 2_zpsfa9pzcsq.jpg


  1. Thoughtful and easy to understand commentary. My family uses parks every week — sometimes every day.
    We go to the arena once a year tops. No brainer.

  2. Thanks for the comparison and conversation. I too suspect the park investments would directly impact more people much more often. In addition, parks have a great deal of public, health, economic and social value. One day soon I hope we’ll be able to better articulate that value so it can be compared to (or at lease part of the conversation) the value espoused by those that support the arena.

  3. This list of park trade-offs is impressive and seemingly more realistic, but it should be compared against the city’s contribution (taxes and maybe “other”) rather than the cost of the arena. Unless you are expecting to sell private equity and naming rights for the items on the park masterplan.

    1. Yup, I am skeptical that the many non-tax portions are actually relying in taxes. The other part of this is that the MCC commission was told and additional 1200-1400 parking spots which would add another $40 Million to the costs.

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