Another shoe is dropping on the reckless Rutgers stadium expansion as Trenton warlord Ray Lesniak (himself a Rutgers alum) is quoted in the Star Ledger expressing profound worry about the economics: “Lesniak yesterday said if Rutgers plans to increase the overall cost of the project beyond $102 million, ‘I’d want to find out where the additional dollars are going to come from.’ He said he doubts additional money could either be found in state coffers or collected through his current fundraising campaign.”
The Ledger, meantime, reports that insiders are saying stadium construction bids came in promiscuously over budget — at least $18 million (17%) over the initial $102 million plan.
Where is that extra money coming from?
Right now, nobody even knows where the $30 million Lesniak and Gov. Seatbelt Corzine supposedly are raising in private contributions is in fact coming from. Supposedly they’ve raised less cash than you’d expect to see in a Skid Row mission collection box (thus Lesniak’s — “don’t look at me” when asked about the extra monies now needed to pursue stadium expansion).
According to reporter Pat Alex in the Bergen Record, Corzine and Lesniak have raised $250,000 of the $30 million (and keep in mind Corzine personally pledged $1 million). That’s some showing of intense fan support!
Alex also reports that Rutgers so far has spent $13 million on the stadium work done thus far — money that Rutgers is forced to borrow.
And she throws in this zinger: “‘This is a debacle; they already dug up half the place and now they find they don’t have the money for construction,’’ said the source with knowledge of the plans. He said the university went ahead with construction without firm plans or financing in place. ‘“It’s out of control,’ he said.”
What’s the likely scenario for Rutgers stadium now? Expect delay, delay, and more delay. Even sports mad Louisville has stumbled with its football stadium expansion — and that is despite a $10 million donation by the Papa Johns founder. In New Brunswick, we hear the biggest single donation so far has been 72 Miller Lite beer cans, empty but good for the recycling monies!
At Old Queens, senior administrators are apparently ducking for cover as the farcical stadium expansion plans blow up in their faces. Heads will roll, we hear, and mutterings on College Ave. say 70 year-old Sweaty Mulcahy III may be in line to take the fall. For him of course this is deja vu all over again because his dismissal from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority reportedly was triggered by chronic over-spending.
Either way — this situation will only get uglier. The $18 million excess is just round one in a state where public construction never comes in on budget. Some experts are muttering the eventual price would top $150 million, assuming Phase 2 of the expansion actually happens. Our bet is that it won’t, not with the state’s coffers already empty and Rutgers forced to lay off teachers and cancel classes just to make up the latest round of state budget cuts.
At least we are in for mirthful times. Watching Mulcahy III, Slick McCormick, and Schiano wrestling with high finance is as deep a belly laugh as watching the Three Stooges try to explain Godel’s Incompletenesss Theorems. Pass the popcorn, we can’t wait for this show to start.