General

The Immortal Debt of Some "Public" Stadiums

I had planned to post on this article by Ken Belson of the New York Times, but ol' Quick Trigger (Skip) beat me to the punch.  In any case, I wanted to comment on the following passage:

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?

2 Comments

  • Avatar Of Donald A. Coffin
    Donald A. Coffin September 8, 2010

    “Otherguy”? His last name is “Overby;” from the immortal books by the sadly mortal Ross Thomas. Otherguy Overby was a scam artist who, when arrested, always managed to convince the police that some other guy did it. His mother called him “Maurice.”

  • Avatar Of Dan
    Dan September 10, 2010

    One of the comments in the NYT story hit it on the head.

    “Sports arenas are the product of prosperity, not a driver of prosperity!”

    If stadiums are drivers of prosperity the area around Yankee Stadium would have been as valuable as anything in Manhattan. The Dodgers and Giants would never have wanted to leave New York. Cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati would not be on their 3rd baseball stadiums in the last 45 years since the economic activity around their old stadiums would make them as valuable as Wrigley Field.

    Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie and Drew Carey met with Cleveland’s city council about how regulations screw up a city. The politicians were so proud that they had three first-class sports facilities while in the meantime it takes more than 9 months for a small business to get approval to put up a new sign. And it is the same across this country where politicians think their job is to regulate things and give taxpayer dollars to millionaires.

    Politicians that are so willing to spend taxpayer money so owners can have their own little Palace at Versailles deserve the fate of Louis XVI. Well, maybe not the guillotine. But removed from office at a minimum.

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