Dan Gilbert vows not to move the Cavaliers, but could reportedly sell them

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert discusses Kyrie Irving’s trade request last month. (AP)

After pulling out of a partnership with the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to renovate the publicly owned Quicken Loans Arena that would have kept the Cavaliers there through 2034, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert assured fans he has no plans to leave the city when the current lease is up in 2027.

As the Cavaliers front office was working to finalize its agreement to trade Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, Gilbert announced on Monday that he was withdrawing from his deal to split the expected $140 million costs of the renovation project with the city amid calls for a referendum on the project.

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“The prospective referendum will cause the groundbreaking of The Q Transformation to miss the current construction cycle, which pushes the overall price tag of the project higher due to rising construction costs,” the Cavs said in a statement. “In addition, a time sensitive financing package that included historically low interest rates would be negatively impacted by further delay due to a prospective referendum exposing the project to an expected higher interest rate environment.”

The Cavs and local politicians suggested the deal, which also required $70 million in revenue generated by the publicly owned arena, would have modernized the building and surrounding area, created thousands of jobs and guaranteed an NBA All-Star Game in 2020 or 2021. The team had also pledged to rehab 40 local basketball courts in Cleveland’s recreation centers and school system.

And, of course, the agreement would have guaranteed the Cavs stay in Cleveland through 2034.

“The Q Transformation Deal was an economic development project that would have resulted in more revenue for the City of Cleveland,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said in a statement. “It would have created construction and permanent jobs, modernized the facilities and guaranteed the Cavs would remain in our city until at least 2034. The deal was an investment in Cleveland’s future and the future of our neighborhoods. It was good for Cleveland and its people. This is a tremendous loss.”

Let’s just say the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, which led the referendum effort, disagreed:

“Despite their stated reason for the cancellation the real reason is that the citizens of Cleveland spoke loud and clear in their opposition to the project by gathering 13,000 valid signatures to force a referendum on the issue,” organizers said in release. “The Cavaliers, Mayor Jackson and Cleveland City Council all know that the project would have been soundly defeated at the ballot box. This is their way of saving face.”

Gilbert’s withdrawal seemed to signal the end of the project. As a result, the Cavs would be eligible to leave Cleveland when their current lease ends in 2027. Naturally, questions lingered. Then, hours after the team completed its blockbuster deal with the Celtics, Gilbert quelled public concern about an exit:


Meanwhile, Cleveland.com reported that, while Gilbert may have no intention of moving the team in 2027, “He could sell the team, and while a team spokesman said there has been no thought given to a sale, sources outside the organization suspect Gilbert to consider selling within the next few years.”

The short-term value of the Cavaliers could suffer an enormous loss should All-Star free agents LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas leave the organization when both become free agents next summer.

Hours after Gilbert’s tweet, Greater Cleveland Congregations, which gathered 22,000 signatures supporting a referendum, pulled its petitions following negotiations with local government officials to ensure additional aid to mental health and substance abuse prevention, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.

As a result, there’s a chance The Q Transformation could be resurrected, although the NBA’s pledge to host an All-Star Game at the arena in the near future required the project to break ground by Sept. 15.

 

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!