NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Privately Built Stadium Puts Publicly Financed Ball Parks To Shame

March 31, 2000

Tonight, the San Francisco Giants' waterfront Pacific Bell Park -- the first privately-financed major league baseball stadium in 30 years -- opens for business. Owners of other sports teams across the nation -- who have benefited from hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds -- scoffed when the plan was first announced in 1996. Now a dozen team principals from other cities have come to San Francisco to study how it was done.

In fact, it was done most successfully:

  • Although the Giants usually don't draw big crowds, they have sold a league-leading 30,000 season tickets for the 41,000-seat stadium.
  • That despite tacking on one-time "license" fees averaging $4,400 a ticket on 15,000 of them.
  • The team's 81 home games are nearly sold out.
  • The $345 million stadium was partially financed by a $155 million loan syndicated by Chase Securities.

While constructing a park with $110 million in public funds, Detroit Tigers' president John McKale Jr. called the Giants' plans "economic suicide." The New York Yankees' George Steinbrenner -- who is seeking public financing for a proposed $1 billion stadium -- once called the Giants' plan risky and unrealistic. After building Chicago's Comiskey Park with more than $200 million in public funds, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf razzed the Giants by saying the best the team would ever be able to do "is cover their debt service."

The critics agree that a private project would never work in their own towns.

"After San Francisco, teams are going to have to ante up significantly more for new stadiums," says Aaron Barman, of Prudential Securities.

Source: Peter Waldman, "If You Build It Without Public Cash, They'll Still Come," Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2000.

 

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