Cleveland Cavaliers renew plans for $140M arena makeover

FILE - In this July 26, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers chairman gestures during a press conference at he Cavaliers training facility in Independence, Ohio. Gilbert vowed Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, to “never” move his NBA franchise from Cleveland. Earlier this week, Gilbert scrapped plans for a $140 million renovation for Quicken Loans Arena and that decision spawned speculation he might leave the city when his lease expires in 2027. (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers are reviving a $140 million renovation of Quicken Loans Arena just over a week after the project was scrapped.

The team announced Wednesday it’ll also extend its lease at the facility for seven extra years, until 2034.

The Cavaliers, who won the 2016 NBA title, hoped to upgrade the 22-year-old downtown arena with more dining spaces and a glass exterior but had faced opposition from community groups objecting to the use of taxpayer money.

The Cavaliers canceled the renovation on Aug. 28 after a referendum petition submitted by the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a religious coalition, gained more than 13,000 valid signatures and threatened to delay the project.

But the coalition withdrew the petition after county officials cut a deal and promised to look into constructing two mental health and substance abuse clinics, allowing renovation plans to move forward again. The Cavaliers will fund half the project as previously planned, while the other half will come from public funding.

Other groups opposed to the project say they weren’t consulted before the petition was withdrawn.

“This isn’t what the majority of Cleveland citizens wanted,” said Steve Holecko, of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, which has been leading the fight to stop the renovation. “This is corporate welfare at its worst.”

The Cavs argue the arena is overdue for a face-lift and the remodeling will help attract major concert acts and other events. The arena, known locally as the Q, hosted the Republican National Convention last year.

The team says the project will create more than 2,500 construction jobs, increase the arena’s job base to 3,200 and increase tax revenues for the city and other neighborhoods.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said his efforts have always been “to create vibrant neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown.”

“This deal is one of the best I’ve seen because it provides opportunities for all of Cleveland,” Jackson, a Democrat, said in a news release.

The team, led by star forward LeBron James, hopes to host an All-Star Game, and the league had warned that if construction didn’t start by September the bid wouldn’t be considered. With renovation plans moving forward again, the team will continue to compete to host an All-Star Game, said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, a Democrat.

Holecko, of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, said community groups won’t try to block the renovation a second time.

Construction is set to begin later this month.

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