The reply to elected officials who argue they don’t oppose a sports complex, just the public funding of it, has to be, “So what?” If no public money is involved, these officials would have little say in the matter beyond being sure that such a facility meets zoning and other land use requirements.
Consequently, politicians who stake out the no-public-funding position are trying to have it both ways: they don’t want to alienate voters who support the development of such a facility, but also want the continued support of those who oppose it.
This is not to suggest that a major athletic facility that proposes to draw youth sports tournaments from all over the eastern half of the country would be a sure-fire success no matter whose money is being spent. It’s a crapshoot, just like it was when the state and the Town of Ocean City built the Ocean City convention center back in 1970.
At the time of its opening, that multi-million-dollar facility was derided throughout the state as a “white elephant” because it sat empty on most days. But, obviously, something did go right over time, because the Roland E. Powell Convention Center is more than five times the size of the original 40,000-square foot structure.
Still, it remains disingenuous for elected officials to profess support for something in which they would have reduced involvement.
Should an investment group buy a tract of cleared land that had once been used for recreational purposes — an abandoned golf course, for instance — its approval would hinge on the findings of the regulatory bodies that govern land use and development.
A project either meets the state and county requirements or it doesn’t, and if it does, elected officials can’t say no just because they don’t like it. Only if a sports complex proposal needed some kind of regulatory accommodation like a zoning change or wastewater disposal solution would politicians’ opinion enter into the equation. And then, the public would find out if that “support” actually exists.