Sports Complex in the Red

By Hema Mullur
NewsWest 9

The problem boils down to one thing.  The cost of operating and maintaining the stadiums exceeds what they bring in to the tune now of $2.7 million dollars.  It's a cost the City Council says they weren't made aware of until recently, and it's a cost that must be paid one way or another.

"The current cost of running the stadium including utilities, mowing, painting, all the costs are running the city about $700,000 a year, and that may climb to a million."

Jarring numbers for a complex which draws thousands of fans every year.

"They assumed revenues would cover the expenses," said Midland city councilman Bill Dingus.  "But we're not even coming close to that at $300,000 or $400,000."

And it all adds up.  Since the dual-stadium complex was built in 2002, the City of Midland has drawn $2.7 million from its reserve fund to cover the cost of its operations and maintenance.  The question now is not whether the city will pay off that deficit, but how?

"We can do it from the general fund just like any other park," said Dingus.  "Or we can do a sales tax."

But a tax passed by Midland citizens doesn't allow for that.  Currently, that quarter of a cent sales tax, known as 4b, can be used to pay off the debt of the stadium, but not its maintenance.  Dingus thinks changing that is the best plan.

"That way you're taxing the people that come from out of town to go to the stadium."

The current method of drawing from the reserve fund has some negative side effects.

"If we take it out of the property tax side, that we're not spending on additional police, improved parks, or fixing the pothole in your neighborhood."

Dingus says this isn't a matter of overspending on the complex.

"We were never supposed to make money on the stadium.  We don't make money on Hogan Park, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Midland Center.  We don't make money on things.  Cities are supposed to break even at best."

And its two main tenants aren't to blame either.

"The Rockhounds got a good deal, M.I.S.D. on the football stadium, they got a good deal and the City wants to make good deals, because we want the citizens to enjoy the facilities."

So now it's down to property or sales, and the city wants to hear from you.

"They're beautiful stadiums, and we don't want to mistreat them," Dingus said.  "It's not a question of are we going to maintain the facility, the question is where does the money come from?"

The City Council will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the issue.  You are invited out to find out more and voice your opinions. 

The meeting is at 11:30 a.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

NewsWest 9 will be at that meeting and we'll let you know what happens.