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Reno airport authority: Don’t expect us to bail out Aces ballpark

Reno AcesAs Washoe County struggles to find some money for the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the local airport authority is clear on one thing: Don’t raise car-rental taxes to pay for the ballpark.

Aces ownership has been open about asking Washoe County to come up with $1.5 million annually to pay down debt on Aces Ballpark, threatening to pull the team if more public money isn’t forthcoming. Quite the ballsy move: while some anticipated public money never came through, none of bills facing Aces co-owner Herb Simon have been unanticipated. And the ballpark deal is a little more complicated than just a simple ballpark-finance transaction: included are downtown tracts of land basically given to Simon to develop. (Which is what he does; Simon is a major retail and mall developer.)

We’re getting the distinct impression that Simon has soured on his foray into Reno real estate and baseball. The team has been a success at the box office, but not necessarily a smash; the 2012 average of 5,633 per game was down some 7 percent from 2011.

One solution floated to pay off ballpark bonds is to double the city’s car-rental tax, a popular way to pay for public expenditures because very few locals rent cars; the burden falls on tourists and insurance companies. Still, representatives from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority say doubling the rental-car tax (from 2 percent to 4 percent) isn’t a good way to address ballpark debt:

“With state and other local government taxes on rental cars already high at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, a step to further increase the tax burden to rental car customers is not as pain-free a solution as often represented,” the airport authority memo said. “While it primarily affects people who do not live in Washoe County, any reduction in demand or duration of leasing negatively impacts the rental car companies and the Authority.”

The team is proposing cutting its lease down to six months (at $1 million), which could also lower property taxes on the facility. The Aces ownership hasn’t paid property taxes on the ballpark, either, arguing that since the facility isn’t used year-round, taxes shouldn’t be paid year-round, either. (Yeah, we’re a little dubious of this argument, too.)

The Reno City Council is expected to discuss a potential ballpark deal Wednesday.

RELATED STORIES: Aces owners: Refinance ballpark or we’ll move team; Aces, Washoe County continue debate over property taxes


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