CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cavaliers' bid to host the 2020 or 2021 NBA All-Star game and accompanying week of events will fail if construction on upgrades at Quicken Loans Arena are not underway by Sept. 15, says a letter from the NBA.
The Cavs have used the idea of an All-Star Game as a selling point to renovate the Q. And the team has warned previously that work would need to begin as quickly as possible for it to be completed in time to host an all-star event -- a weekend of activities that some projections say could pump $100 million into the local economy.
But the plan is mired right now in a court fight in the Ohio Supreme Court. The letter was part of a brief filed by the Cavaliers Thursday with the court. So bonds have not been sold.
Related story: Lawyers for Q deal opponents argue that referendum right must be honored
NBA sets a hard deadline
in the letter dated July 19, to David Gilbert, the president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission -- an organization that promotes Cleveland as a site for conventions, shows and other marquee events -- the NBA offers its strongest language yet that if the work doesn't begin by mid-September, the game won't be awarded to Cleveland.
You can read the letter below. Mobile users click here.
"We continue to be encouraged and impressed with Cleveland as a destination and your bid package positions you as a very strong host city contender. We will be awarding the 2020 and 2021 All-Star events and games in the near future," the NBA's deputy commissioner and CEO, Mark Tatum, says in the letter.
"At the same time, as we have communicated previously [to the Cavaliers], we will not be able to consider Cleveland as the host city for NBA All-Star 2020 or 2021 unless construction of The Q's 'Transformation' project begins on or before Sept. 15, 2017," Tatum wrote.
"We have already delayed the awarding of these All-Stars to accommodate Cleveland," Tatum wrote, "and unfortunately, we cannot ask the other NBA cities that have held these dates open to wait any longer."
A source with knowledge of Cleveland's All-Star bid said there was still time for the legal process to run its course, for the bonds to be sold, and for construction to begin by the NBA's September deadline.
Tatum's letter "in some ways is actually a good thing," Gilbert said in an interview.
"2020 is the year we've been looking at, and it's good to hear how much they liked our bid," Gilbert said. "While renovating the Q would never guarantee an All-Star Game, it's a very important part of the process and the NBA reaffirmed that in its letter."
Upgrades would dramatically change The Q
The proposal to upgrade Quicken Loans Arena would dramatically change the arena's appearance, adding a glass facade and greatly expand interior space for restaurants and bars.
The upgrades, the Cavs argue, would keep the arena competitive with other cities, allowing it to continue to draw big concert and show acts to Cleveland into the 2030s.
Cuyahoga County has agreed to sell bonds to finance the project and the county, the city of Cleveland, Destination Cleveland and the Cavaliers have agreed to a plan that would pay off those bonds. The Cavaliers have agreed to cover half the cost.
Cleveland's share of the project, though, is being contested in a court fight.
Cleveland City Council voted 12-5 April 24 to allow the city to join the deal and commit a portion of the admission taxes collected from events at the Q from 2024 through 2034 toward retiring the bonds. The city signed a contract on the deal with the county the next day.
Referendum push led to court fight
A coalition, led by Greater Cleveland Congregations, had opposed the deal, arguing there should be money worked into the package to target poverty, unemployment and improving living conditions in Cleveland's neighborhoods.
The coalition collected 20,000 signatures on petitions calling for a referendum on the ordinance that council approved April 24. After City Council Clerk Pat Britt, through one of her deputies, refused to accept those petitions, the case landed in court.