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Government vs. private investment and the downtown Wichita arena

A Wichita businessman proposes building an arena that, while not as large as the downtown Wichita arena being built by Sedgwick County, would provide some competition to the government-owned arena.

Normally, private investment is welcomed. If you believe in limited government as I do, it is vastly preferred to government spending. But if you’re a Sedgwick County Commissioner getting ready to spend some $200 million in sales tax collections on a government arena, it seems that competition from the private sector isn’t welcome. As reported in The Wichita Eagle:

Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said he would prefer Hartman [the Wichita businessman] not go “head to head” with the county. “I am definitely (in favor) of free enterprise and allowing folks to do whatever they think they can do to improve their own financial stature,” Unruh said. “This, however, I think would present some competitive challenges to the downtown arena, and I prefer he not do it.”

The absurdity in Commissioner Unruh’s statement is eye-catching and revealing of his arrogance. He says, and I believe I am accurate in my interpretation, that free enterprise is good, unless it happens to provide a challenge to a government project!

Assistant Sedgwick County Manager Ron Holt is a little gentler in his criticism of the proposed private arena, remarking that “overall, it would not be in the best interest of the community.”

Wichita and Kansas need private investment. When government officials make remarks like these, it a wonder that anyone would choose to invest here. Yet, people do invest here, and the results show the failures of government projects and government-subsidized partnerships. Consider, for example, the government-subsidized Waterwalk vs. the privately developed Waterfront. Consider that the government-owned Kansas Coliseum is not yet 30 years old, but, by most accounts, not suitable for continued use.

It’s even worse when government is investing in projects of dubious value to the community at large, but is requiring everyone to pay for it. It is telling that in an article about the downtown arena, The Wichita Eagle looks to Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission president and chief executive Bob Hanson for a reaction. It tells how the downtown arena is a gift to special interests, Mr. Hanson being an especially vocal member of this special interest group that will benefit from a taxpayer-supplied arena.

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One Comment

  1. […] Normally the announcement of a facility like this would be welcomed by government officials. That wasn’t the case two years ago when this arena was announced. See Government vs. Private Investment and the Downtown Wichita Arena. […]

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