Reading their comprehensive coverage, my eyebrows went up a bit at the mention of looking for state subsidies for the proposed Minor League Baseball museum and "fan experience" center. Perhaps I hadn't been paying proper attention during earlier discussions of the project, but it was somehow my impression that MiLB was performing a feasibility and fund-raising study to determine their ability to pay for a museum.
Apparently, the plan is actually for MiLB to pay the "operating costs" of the facility, with the government picking up the tab for the land and construction costs.
This is a tough one for me. On the one hand, I think the arrival of this museum would be a terrific cornerstone in the redevelopment of the DAP district, and would help bring a broad stream of tourists through the Bull City. (Plus, I'm a big baseball fan, who'd love to have this around the corner.)
But I'm still left scratching my head over how it's a Durham (or a North Carolina) responsibility to fund a museum for a sporting league.
Now, I don't have a problem with cities helping to support sports facilities for professional teams -- at least not to a reasonable level. After all, besides their economic development impact on local businesses and development, they also provide an entertainment outlet for local residents and families, providing a source of recreation. (I'd argue that this rationale is far stronger for facilities like the DBAP, whose funding in the 1990s I certainly think was the right idea, where the tickets to see games are very affordable.)
And I don't have a problem with cities funding theaters and performing arts facilities. After all, these facilities support the arts, both in terms of national productions and local acts, along with assemblies like school graduations and the like. And, again, while there's positive economic externalities that help justify the construction, it's a facility that primarily serves local audiences.
But a museum that would primarily help grow and support the brand of a national business, and which would primarily cater to out-of-region visitors? Somehow it doesn't resonate the same way with me for demanding local tax support.
Of course, if the hotel and tourism industry is behind it, and behind using the room occupancy tax for it, that's fine by me. (After all, those taxes are levied on their customers for the express purpose of helping to draw more paying customers in for the hotel.) And if there's cash left over after supporting the Durham Performing Arts Center, well, great.
But it's not too surprising to hear Basnight give the idea of state subsidies a cold shoulder. For one thing, it's an election year -- and given Democratic candidate for governor Richard Moore's links to the laughable failure formerly known as "The Randy Parton Theater" out thar' in Roanoke Rapids, one would not look forward to the drubbing a Graham or Orr would give the Dems over funding a baseball museum in the Bull City.
It also doesn't help that the $20 million in "state support" for Charlotte's NASCAR Hall of Fame (courtesy of a land loan) benefited the stompin' grounds of everyone's least favorite ophthalmologist, the disgraced Jim Black, who supported the use of the commonweal for the common man's wheel-sports museum.
All of which, though, is slightly orthogonal to the real heart of the matter: Should a professional sports hall of fame be a matter for public enterprise? Here, or in Charlotte, or wherever?
In an era when Durham is far overcommited for capital projects and bond obligations, it's an important question to ask.