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Black holes and stadium subsidies

Often times economists point out that there are opportunity costs to stadium subsidies. The tax revenues allocated to build a stadium could have been used to renovate a couple of dilapidated schools, for example. But never have I seen the tradeoff quite stated so explicitly as in this real life example: Atlanta is considering granting "Tax Allocation District" (TAD) status for the area around Turner Field, as a means to stimulate development:

The Atlanta school board could vote as early as next month on whether to allow some future school taxes to be spent on redevelopment near Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves.

This is part of a larger redevelopment initiative, and it is not clear that the Braves themselves are very interested in it. But the "school board" clearly buys into the stadiums as catalyst argument that is circulating the land.

There is an incongruity here. Consider this quote from an initiative supporter:

"The TAD for the stadium is desperately needed," said Wendy Battaglia, a landscaper who lives in Summerhill on the east side of Turner Field. "You can't have a community when there are only two houses on the street and the rest are vacant lots."

Got it? A stadium subsidy is not enough. It must be accompanied by further subsidies if the vacant lots that surround the stadium are to be developed. Hmmm.

Economist Roger Noll is quoted in the article:

"Sports venues alone are just big black holes that have the ability to depress the neighborhoods in which they're in."

That's the stark reality. But as the myth of stadiums as economic development gets exposed, will that lead to more or less government spending? In the Atlanta case, and other cities where these integrated development plans are emerging, the answer seems to be "more."