NBA basketball franchise the Cleveland Cavaliers has revived plans to redevelop its Quicken Loans Arena and has extended its commitment to the US city, just days after electing to end the project due to public opposition over the use of public tax funds to finance the scheme.
Work at the venue had been set commence in June, but progress was delayed due to a prospective referendum being placed on the ballot by groups that said the $140m (€116.8m) project would not aid local communities.
The Greater Cleveland Congregation, a religious coalition, had collected 13,000 signatures of people opposed to the work. However, the group has now agreed to drop the petition after county officials agreed to consider building two mental health and substance abuse clinics in the area.
This withdrawal of opposition will allow work to go ahead and, according to the Associated Press news agency, construction will begin later this month.
The Cavaliers had intended to use $70m in public funds to support the project, while the remaining $70m would be supplied in private capital by the team. The team said it will keep this financing structure in place for the revived project.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who has been a staunch supporter of the project, said in a statement that the initiative is “one of the best deals” he has ever seen for the local area, adding that it will benefit various groups.
“My efforts have always been to create vibrant neighbourhoods and a vibrant downtown,” Jackson said in a statement published by the Cleveland.com website. “I've said it before – this deal is one of the best I've seen because it provides opportunities for all of Cleveland.
“Those who demonised this process were short-sighted, and I encourage them to ask themselves what they can do for the future of this city. Strong leadership requires doing the right thing, not just saying what you think people want to hear.”
The team last week said its home is the oldest arena in the NBA without a major structural renovation, adding that renovation work will help to extend the life of the venue to over 40 years, with the average life of similar facilities only 22 years in the NBA. The agreement also comes complete with a seven-year lease extension, running from 2027 to 2034.
Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish added: “Improving the Arena, creating and retaining jobs, and locking the Cavs down in Cleveland through 2034, all without raising taxes, is a big deal for northeast Ohio.”