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It's the opportunity cost, stupid

Two good quotes from Stanford's Roger Noll, in Patt Morrison's column in the LA Times on politics and stadium subsidies:

Paul Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner, campaigned for San Francisco's 1997 stadium bond measure by protesting, "This is not a stadium project — it's economic development." But as Noll points out, luring sports teams with public money in the expectation of big benefits is a sucker's game. With, say, $200 million — about two-thirds of what the public put up for Camden Yards in Baltimore — "you could go out and build an industrial park and generate 10 to 100 times as much taxes and jobs."

But nevertheless it pays for the politicians to kick in the cash for stadiums:

Politicians do it because "it's good politics." Very few people, Noll argues, vote against someone who spends public money for a sports team, but a lot — 5% or 10% — will vote against the politician who refuses to. There's a wonderful quote from the mayor of a town in suburban Phoenix. He said, 'We never built a new stadium without asking the citizens. If they tell us they want it, we build it. If they tell us they don't want it, we go ahead and build it anyway.' "

Read it again, and reflect.