Editorial: Government shouldn't be in arena business

The great American philosopher Will Rogers once said, “The business of government is to keep the government out of business – that is, unless business needs government aid.” That statement couldn’t be more true in Lebanon today. Mayor Philip Craighead’s dream...
Feb 6, 2013

The great American philosopher Will Rogers once said, “The business of government is to keep the government out of business – that is, unless business needs government aid.” That statement couldn’t be more true in Lebanon today.

Mayor Philip Craighead’s dream of a Cumberland Center arena on the east side of the city isn’t a bad one on the surface.

What city wouldn’t benefit from an ice rink that could be used by both the public, as well as a minor league hockey team?

Who wouldn’t enjoy a few large meeting halls that would attract business from larger Nashville to “get away from it all?”

Who doesn’t enjoy a little added entertainment with shows and concerts?

Who wouldn’t mind the added tax revenue something like that could create, along with the draw it would have to attract even more businesses?

Who could argue we need more jobs?

The problem with Craighead’s plan, however, is twofold with a backward approach.

First, it should be the arena that attracts the surrounding businesses, not the way Craighead has it laid out. By building and opening the arena first, there’s little to stop potential businesses from wanting to be close by to give people options for shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.

The fact is, once the hockey game is over, folks will want somewhere close by to go. Let the arena be the spark that ignites the fuse for an economic explosion in the Cumberland Center.

Obviously, under the current plan on the table, the question arises of where the money will come from to be able to build an arena of this magnitude. The likes of $30 million just doesn’t grow on trees. But that’s where the second problem comes into play.

Local government should actively recruit a private developer to come in and build an arena in Lebanon. The location is certainly appealing, and the growth potential is there. Then, once the arena is built, we can all benefit from it in numerous ways, including entertainment value, further growth potential of the area, expanded venues for events and, most importantly, we can all share in the wealth the added tax revenues will bring.

Quite simply, government should not be in the business of business. But it can help.

Our local government can work to sell the plan to others, offer tax incentives to locate in Lebanon and be the catylist for a partnership like no other. And once the arena is up and running, government can quietly exit and continue its most important job of providing the best life it can for its citizens.

There would be no added concerns of profits, losses or the like because government would not be in business.
Now that the plan has passed the Lebanon City Council, we urge the Wilson County Commission and our local legislative delegation to carefully consider this plan in its entirety, because some of it makes sense.

But let’s keep government out of it, and allow the process of business do what it does best.

Lebanon is a stunning venue for an arena. Let’s all do our part to see that vision come to sensible and prudent fruition.

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