Recently, I attended the annual West Virginia Auto Show, held at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center. I was immediately struck by how similar the renovated facility felt to its prior incarnation, the Charleston Civic Center. Although there were obvious changes to be sure, the building’s core felt strangely dated.
Over $100 million in municipal bonds were issued to pay for the makeover. Revenue from the facility will, theoretically, cover principal and interest costs. (Good luck with that.)
Ostensibly, the “new” facility will become a financial juggernaut by renting space for conferences. In the age of virtual meetings, this appears absurd.
Further, the “new” facility was to have had a symbiotic relationship with the Charleston Town Center mall. Sadly, our debt-ridden mall might be running out of financial options. Reinvention choices are vanishing, anchor stores are closing. Macy’s, which has enjoyed rent-free status, is walking away.
Where does this leave us? What are our choices? One can short individual stocks, but not bonds, in the hope of buying back the same later, at a lower price. What about actually modernizing the coliseum so major acts might be inclined to visit our city? Too little and too late.
Thus, we are left with an extraordinarily expensive white elephant, courtesy of our former mayor.
Vainglorious rulers often enjoy building monuments honoring themselves. This project was done in a postmodern architectural style, that will probably not age well. Danny Jones was lacking the skills to understand financial complexities. He will, however, be memorialized by his strange, glass monolith.
At what price vanity?