NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Taxpayers Raising Protests Over Stadium Deals

July 19, 1999

The opening of Safeco Field in Seattle last Thursday was met by protests, legal threats and a growing squall over how much the public should pay for stadiums that enrich private owners.

  • Costing $517 million, Safeco Field -- the new home of the Seattle Mariners' baseball team -- is the most costly single-sport stadium ever built in North America.
  • The ownership group, which includes Microsoft billionaires, had promised to cover all cost overruns on the new park.
  • The public thought its share of the cost would be $372 million until the owners stunned even the team's strongest supporters by asking taxpayers to pick up most of a cost overrun which totaled $100 million.
  • Safeco Field also has the dubious distinction of being the first ballpark built with public money after voters defeated a nonbinding referendum and refused to pay for it.

Stadiums scheduled to open in Milwaukee next year and Pittsburgh in 2001 are also being built with tax dollars even though the public voted overwhelmingly against using public money in their construction.

"I think the public is at its limit," says Thomas M. Finneran, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, who led a fight to curb the amount his state would pay to keep the New England Patriots from moving to Connecticut. Finneran says that "more and more, people are saying enough of this kind of corporate welfare. And I think the sports owners asked for the backlash," by making exorbitant demands.

Source: Timothy Egan, "What Price the Most Expensive Diamond of All?" New York Times, July 17, 1999.


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