Billy Burge: THE best reason to shut down the Sports Authority!

Jack Rains
Dan Patrick (KSEV-700) just had the most astounding interview. He began his show by chatting with Jack Rains (photo left) who was the founding Chairman of the Board of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. Rains agrees that it's time for the Sports Authority to be shuttered and was discussing it with Patrick. It was a very interesting interview, with Rains providing plenty of facts and tidbits relating to the Sports Authority and the building of the three sports venues (these are from memory and scribbled notes; if something's a bit off, let me know):

--Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) came in on time and under budget, although about $20 million worth of extras that Astros' owner Drayton McLane was supposed to pay for, the Sports Authority let him get out of (that was after Rains had left the Authority).

--Reliant was supposed to come in at around $300 million but ended up coming in at around $500 million. Rains said some of those extras were due to Rodeo needs and the Rodeo paid for its extras, but those didn't total $200 million.

--Rockets' owner Les Alexander got a nice deal on the Toyota Center at about $100 million more than what the Sports Authority had been authorized to approve. (I think Rains said Lee Brown negotiated the deal, but I could be wrong.)

--Reliant Stadium has already been handed over to Harris County, and the Toyota Center to the City of Houston. So, as Rains said, Minute Maid Park needs to be handed over to the city or the county, and then that will relieve the Sports Authority of any further oversight.

--Regarding the idea that Oliver Luck is busy promoting Houston's professional sports teams (an idea furthered by the Chronicle's editorial board), Rains said that's nonsense. He said the owners of the teams would never hand over promotion of their teams to Luck. And in the off-chance that they did want Oliver Luck to handle promotional duties, then Rains said the team owners need to be paying Luck's salary, not taxpayers. (Amen and hallelujah!)

--Rains said he thinks the $3 million operating budget for the Sports Authority is steep for what the Authority currently has to do. He said that the city and county should WANT to dissolve the Authority and get control of the money, if the Authority isn't handling the finances as well as it should be (think last summer's near-miss with junk bond status.)

--Rains thinks governmental entities like the Sports Authority should have a sunset-clause built in.

--Rains said the Sports Authority is a "creature that has outlived its usefulness."

Billy Burge
It was around this time that Patrick took a call and it was Billy Burge, current chairman of the Sports Authority (photo right), and boy was he hot! He said he was in San Francisco and he didn't have a computer, so we can guess that someone from Houston called to alert him. He tore into Rains, personally attacking him. Then he tore into Patrick, telling Patrick that he is stupid and doesn't understand "things." (To be absolutely fair to Patrick and Rains, Burge was so far out of line, it was unreal. Patrick and Rains had been having a very calm and friendly conversation and were verbally attacked, out of nowhere, by Burge.)

When Patrick and Rains questioned Burge about the $3 million Sports Authority operating budget, Burge let slip that the taxpayers (you and me) are subsidizing a parking garage and the ice for Aeros games.

Really! $100,000 worth of ice for Aeros' players to skate on is paid for by the taxpayers!

And Burge couldn't figure out why Rains and Patrick found that astonishing. Rains had said earlier that when he was in charge of the Sports Authority, he knew that he was representing and looking out for the taxpayers. Burge appears to take the exact opposite view -- he made it clear that his mission is to look out for the teams and the owners. He said it was small-minded of Patrick to think that the Aeros should pay for their ice, he had no idea if the Aeros make money or lose money, and he didn't appear to care. Plus, while he was berating Patrick and Rains, Burge was confirming his dinner reservations!

It was an amazing call-in from Billy Burge, who is also the former chairman of Metro's board of directors and the current chairman of the Grand Parkway Association. (Uh oh, Grand Parkway...)

Patrick said that Lone Star Times would have an MP3 of the interview/call-in later this weekend. If they do, I will post an update and I would encourage everyone to listen to the entire show. Rains' information was invaluable and Burge's display...well, mere words cannot convey what an ass he made of himself. You really need to hear it.

He is a disturbing example of someone who has access to taxpayer money, and the mayor and county commissioners would be wise to get rid of him, after that display of unbelievable bureaucratic arrogance.

And then they can get to work shutting down the Sports Authority. The Aeros need to pay for their own damn ice.

KEVIN WHITED ADDS: If that's not a post worthy of the designation #1000 for our little experiment in hyperlocal blogging, I can't imagine how one would look. Thanks Anne!

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/08/05 06:32 PM | Print |

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