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Skyboxes for me, but not for thee?

2009 October 7
by Skip Sauer

This story from Mobile, Alabama, brings to mind movie scenes of Roman emperors, seated in the prime seats of the Coliseum:

In late August, when the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sam Jones first toured the $2.5-million addition to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, including 11 new skyboxes, District 6 Councilwoman Connie Hudson said she was surprised to hear the city council would have a suite separate from the mayor’s, which is located just between the 40- and 50-yard lines.

“It was announced to me on the day we toured,” Hudson said. “We’ve always shared, like we do with the Baybears.”

The 11 new skyboxes bring the total at city-owned Ladd-Peebles Stadium up to 14, as three were built in 1997 in part of the press box addition. In addition to the two skyboxes available to the city, the Mobile County Commission also has a suite, which brings the total of skyboxes for local government use to three, or 21 percent of the skyboxes in the 61-year-old stadium.

Speaking generally, and taking into consideration the differences between facilities in other cities, Bud Ratliff of the Mobile Bay Sports Authority says most stadiums have only two skyboxes reserved for city and county use, but doesn’t see a problem with the current arrangement at Ladd-Peebles.

Silly, me, until reading this I had not considered the possibility that public officials themselves were direct beneficiaries of the public investments made in commercial sports facilities. The story is titled “Skyboxes at Ladd-Peebles Could Provide Huge Economic Impact.” There is nothing in the story that remotely supports that contention. Rather, the story is entirely consistent with the public choice analysis of stadium subsidies, with the caveat that we add direct benefits to the politicians themselves to the analysis. As one spokesperson said, this setup “is standard across the country.” Don’t you just love the political class?

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