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Carrier DomeThe City of Syracuse can’t afford to fix water mains that break all the time, but Syracuse University would like taxpayers to help pay for a $495 million, 44,000-seat retractable roof stadium.

Never mind that SU has an endowment of nearly $1 billion. Never mind that SU doesn’t pay property taxes, though it agreed to fork over at least some cash to its cash-strapped host.  Never mind that the basketball team alone brings in about $25 million in revenue and will get more from the ACC TV contract. Never mind that there’s no plan to reuse the iconic Carrier Dome. Never mind that stadiums are not true economic development.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center calls the idea of a new SU stadium a “fantasy” and unfair to taxpayers. He also notes the Carrier Dome is a big success:

The dome, and SU’s Division I teams, draw tens of thousands regularly, even on wintry nights.

“But it hasn’t fixed Syracuse’s problems,” he said, “which is kind of proof in itself.”

The mayor wisely didn’t agree to a plan hatched by the governor and county executive to award $200 million in state money to the project. She is forming a task force to look into the issue.


Links of the Day:


– A Rochester case will test shaken baby science used in courts.

– A state audit of a Rochester charter school found favoritism in awarding contracts.

– Given my experiences over the last two weeks, this column about sexism directed at women reporters resonated.


Carrier Dome

Syracuse University, about to make $20 million a year from joining the ACC, is pondering the replacement of the iconic Carrier Dome. The Dome was built in 1980 and is a signature of the college and the city skyline.

The Post-Standard reports:

“I think Central New York deserves an unbelievable place,” said Gross, SU’s athletic director. “You’ve got all these great new stadiums in New York City and then you start coming upstate and the next biggest thing you run into is the Dome…”


(Baksetball coach Jim) Boeheim prefers to extend the shelf life of a stadium that has helped facilitate unprecedented growth for his program. He believes the Dome, with its quirky visuals, its capacity to accommodate vast basketball crowds and its strong Syracuse association, still serves the university’s athletic interests.


“You build a new basketball arena, then you’ve got a basketball arena, just like everybody else has,” Boeheim said.


Joe Giansante, SU’s new Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communication & External Affairs, endorses the adage that “if you’re not building facilities, you’re falling behind.”

Syracuse is about to start construction on a $17 million football practice facility and it has the new, $19 million Melo Center.

No one has mentioned the price tag of replacing the Dome, which would easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars. No one has mentioned exactly why this should be done, other than Syracuse suddenly has money to spend.


Links of the Day:


– Midtown Tower is the most important piece of redeveloping the site. But I’m rather horrified at plans for a corner surface parking lot. That’s the type of stuff that destroyed our downtown in the first place.

– Everything we thought we knew about Shaken Baby Syndrome might not be true. The doubts about the diagnosis have come to a Rochester case.

– Refused permission to tear down historic buildings, a Syracuse owner let them rot. Now they have to torn down anyway.

– New York is having problems with the contractor charged with sending out refunds to paper tax filers. The filers are entitled to interest.

– Multi-billion dollar companies are paying low-wage workers with debit cars that carry huge fees.

Syracuse LogoIf you filled out your bracket based on which teams graduate the most players, Syracuse University wouldn’t make it out of the first round.

The Syracuse men’s basketball team remains a low-performer among Division I schools when it comes to academics. The team barely escaped future NCAA sanctions by having an Academic Progress Score of 936, above its score of 928 last year. The NCAA penalty cutoff is 930 – roughly equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate. Syracuse is in the 20th percentile among basketball teams and in the 1st percentile among all athletic teams. The score is calculated using four and six-year graduation rates among athletes.

Syracuse’s six-year graduation rate for men’s basketball players was 58 percent in 2012, up from 54 percent the year before. But it only graduated 43 percent of black student basketball players, down from 44 percent. The men’s basketball team has a graduation rate far below that of all Syracuse student athletes.

Some coaches, including Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, have criticized the academic point system, saying the teams are so small, one player who messes up could drag down the score. Others have said future players shouldn’t be denied scholarships or postseason play because of the performance of previous players.

An NCAA press release lauded the academic progress of basketball players on tournament teams. The six-year graduation rate for black students climbed from 59 to 65 percent. The six-year graduation rate for white students went from 88 to 90 percent. The overall six-year graduation rate increased from 67 to 70 percent.

Progress – even if it comes slowly –  is great. But it’s hard to get excited about any team with these abysmal academic results. College is about school, right?

Look up a school’s Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Rate.

Inside Higher Ed's Academic Bracket

Inside Higher Ed’s Academic Bracket

Links of the Day:

– A developer wants to open a book store and retail shops on university-owned property near a college campus. The property is tax exempt and city officials are excited about getting it on the tax rolls again. The property is not in a distressed neighborhood. But the developer says it needs a hefty tax break to move forward.

This is what is happening at both the University of Rochester and Syracuse University.

The U of R wants to develop property on Mt. Hope Avenue. Its chosen developer has asked the city for a $20 million loan. But this isn’t just any loan. The city would borrow the money from the federal government and pay back the loan with a yet-to-be-determined portion of the developer’s payment in lieu of taxes. This is a fancy way of simply giving the developer money. Instead of paying a full load of taxes, the developer would be paying off construction costs.

Instead of sitting down with City Council – and the public – to explain what’s going on, the mayor dropped the bomb in the monthly legislation packet. He is postponing the measure to give himself more time to explain why he thinks it’s necessary.

The Syracuse University project is similar, though smaller in scope. A developer wants a 30-year tax break that would amount to an 83 percent reduction of his property tax bill. The project is surrounded by businesses who pay their full share. Officials in Syracuse are debating whether to approve the deal, according to the Post-Standard:

Critics, including former city Assessor John Gamage, say that’s an excessive break for development in an area of the city that is commercially desirable. No other project except the Carousel Center mall has been given a 30-year tax break.

”I feel very strongly that it’s a very bad giveaway,” Gamage said. “It’s just outrageous, in my opinion, and it’s a step in the wrong direction.”


Councilor Pat Hogan said he was skeptical about the need for a lengthy tax exemption on University Hill. PILOTs should be reserved for use on difficult projects, he said.

“How can you not make money on this?” Hogan said.

(Developer Tom) Valenti, a former partner at The Pyramid Cos., agreed that University Hill is attractive to developers.

“But most of that land is owned by tax-exempt institutions,” he said. “If the city’s concern is that so much of its tax base is tied up in tax-exempt land, then isn’t this a great way to unlock that value?”

Developers smell the desperation of cities and have been trained to threaten projects unless they get what they want. They usually do. The rest of us pay.

– A High Falls gorge wall is unstable. This is upsetting and could have consequences for the festival site and the view.

– A political analyst said Kathleen Hochul will have to pull a “Houdini act” if she wants to stay in Congress. The Buffalo News has a great write-up of how redistricting affects Western New York.

– Syracuse and Buffalo are among the top 50 cities for bed bugs.

More Links of the Day:

– Fab Melo can’t play in the NCAA tournament because he’s academically ineligible.

He may soon have company. The entire Syracuse team wouldn’t be eligible under NCAA rules that go into effect next year. Neither would St. Bonaventure.

The reason? Pitiful graduation rates.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports released its annual March Madness study and the results should make fans of these schools ashamed.

Syracuse’s basketball program has a six-year graduation rate of 54 percent, 44 percent for black men. St. Bonaventure’s six-year graduation rate is 65 percent, 56 percent for black men. The graduation rates at both schools are far below the rates for student athletes overall.

What would get these schools booted from future tournaments is the four-year academic progress of players. The NCAA’s new formula requires a 50 percent graduation rate after four years.  Cuse and Bona wouldn’t make the cut with their current stats.

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim called the NCAA’s formula “completely nuts” last year in USA Today:

Boeheim said because basketball teams have small rosters, it takes only two or three players “who do the wrong thing” to put a team under a 925 cutoff. He said coaches and schools can do little to force student-athletes whose eligibility is up to go to class.

“Any good school can have a bad class and fall below,” Boeheim said. “It’s a lot more difficult than it looks. What looks to be simple on paper isn’t as simple as it looks. If three guys leave (school) and your other seven guys are ‘A’ students, that still puts you below. It’s hard to recover from that.”

Boeheim argues students leaving early for the NBA hurts the team’s academic standing. NCAA officials say the formula takes that into account. Even if Boeheim is right, he’s admitting his team is a basketball factory that has little to do with academics.

Instead of talking about student athletes who have no intention of graduating and the programs that pretend to care, we’re talking about our brackets.

That’s not Fab. That’s sad.

– Brooks Landing is hot. Students, residents and businesses are making their home in the redeveloped area. A new highrise student apartment building is planned.

– Why can’t our City Hall have crises like this? Trenton, N.J. is in a dispute with its toilet paper supplier. The health department may have to shut down toilet paper-less public buildings as a result.

– After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish.