Kansas City Council member Scott Wagner recently gave College Basketball Experience officials what he calls “tough love” regarding their taxpayer-provided loan.
Good for Wagner. As the mayor pro tem properly notes, the council does not have good reasons to forgive the remaining $600,000 of a $1.1 million loan given to the College Basketball Experience almost 10 years ago.
Instead, operators of the facility that’s next door to the popular Sprint Center need to be looking for private donors to help them out — and developing ways to attract larger paying crowds to enjoy what the CBE offers.
As we noted when this issue arose late last year, City Manager Troy Schulte also balked at letting the group renege on the loan.
The city is never flush with cash, and it should be putting money aside to help pay for maintaining the Sprint Center complex as it ages. This loan repayment money could help with that in the years to come.
Currently, the College Basketball Experience is obligated to pay $86,000 a year through 2023 to pay off the funds it borrowed to complete its facility.
Wagner said Thursday that he did make a “counteroffer” that could extend the length of the CBE’s loan another seven or so years. That would drop the annual payment to roughly $40,000.
That’s certainly preferable to forgiving the loan, and it still would send the reasonable message that City Hall expects groups it deals with to pay the public back.
In the case of the College Basketball Experience, the hard line from Wagner, Schulte and others makes particular sense given the prime location of the facility in the heart of downtown. The place should be more successful financially than it is right now.
Its operators should focus on better marketing what they already have while seeking private funds to add interactive fan amenities that could woo bigger crowds in the future.