NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Subsidized Ballparks Price Fans Away

April 20, 1999

New evidence indicates that sports fans who vote to subsidize sports arenas with their taxpayer dollars quite possibly could be denied entry at the gate.

  • On opening day this year, 61,000 San Diego Padres fans packed the local stadium to watch their baseball team's opening day -- and looked forward to the opening of the new $411 million facility they approved, which is scheduled to open in 2002.
  • But it will only seat 42,000 fans -- leaving 19,000 of those taxpayers and sports fans to watch the game at home.

Cato Institute economist Raymond J. Keating cites two studies that support the argument that tax-subsidized sports arenas are a bad bet for cities.

  • According to North Carolina State University economist Michael Walden, cities with major league sports teams actually grew more slowly in the period 1990 to 1994.
  • University of Maryland economists Dennis Coates and Brad Humphries found that cities with new ballparks actually showed a $100 drop in per capita income.

Whether or not there is a cause-and-effect relationship, expensive new tax-supported sports complexes do lead to higher ticket prices -- and that is not good for either taxpayers or fans.

Source: Joseph Perkins (San Diego Union-Tribune), "Pricing Fans Away From the Game," Washington Times, April 17, 1999.


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