NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stadium Subsidies Strike At Taxpayers' Wallets

July 15, 1999

In several instances recently, voters and taxpayers have nixed suggestions they shell out to build new sports arenas for major- league teams. Then they found that politicians were doing an end-run and financing the structures anyway.

  • A recent Cato Institute analysis revealed that during the 20th century at least $20 billion, in 1997 dollars, has been spent on stadiums and arenas for the four major league sports -- with taxpayers responsible for more than 70 percent of the costs.
  • Another $13 billion could be spent on big league sports facilities over the next five years or so -- with government subsidies possibly reaching $9 billion.
  • Just over the coming 15 months, some 16 new major league stadiums and arenas will open at a total cost of $4.3 billion -- with taxpayers being hit up for about $2.5 billion.

Experts note that while the facilities are growing ever more lavish, their life spans are growing shorter. Facilities built as recently as the 1970s and 1980s are being abandoned.

Taxpayer-subsidized ballparks cannot even be justified on grounds they boost local economies. Every independent analysis shows no positive economic impact arising from subsidized stadiums and arenas.

The most recent study, by Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys at the University of Maryland, not only found no effect on per capita income growth from the presence of sports teams and stadiums, but an actual negative impact on local income levels.

Source: Raymond J. Keating (Small Business Survival Committee), "No Cheers for Stadium Subsidies," Investor's Business Daily, July 15, 1999.


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