Paying for arenas and stadiums that are now gone or empty is a result of a trend that stretches back decades. Until the 1960s, public works were often defined as bridges, roads, sewers and so on: basic infrastructure that was used by all and was unlikely to be built by the private sector. With few exceptions, like County Stadium in Milwaukee, teams constructed their own stadiums.
As pro sports expanded into cities from coast to coast, politicians and business leaders pushed for taxpayer-financed stadiums to lure teams. To name a few, New York builtShea Stadium for the expansion Mets, Atlanta put up Fulton County Stadium to lure theBraves from Milwaukee, and Oakland built a stadium to entice the Athletics to move from Kansas City, Mo.
Soon after, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati built stadiums for teams already there. In some cases, cities justified the expense as a way to keep owners from moving their teams. In other cases, politicians argued that the stadiums would generate enough revenue to cover the construction cost.
The monopoly league model says that leagues will leave profitable cities without clubs if that city can be used as a bargaining chip when negotiating stadium subsidies. Hello, Los Angeles! When that bargaining chip has the value of a buffalo chip, then said city might get a team.
But what the heck. The world needs more white elephants and they’re not so bad when the other guy is paying for it. Even the Quebeceurs are getting into the act (via Craig Depken).
By the way, who is this “other guy” anyway?