NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

As Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives On

September 13, 2010

The old Giants Stadium, demolished to make way for New Meadowlands Stadium, still carries about $110 million in debt, or nearly $13 for every New Jersey resident, even though it is now a parking lot, says the New York Times.

New Jerseyans are hardly alone in paying for stadiums that no longer exist.

  • Residents of Seattle's King County owe more than $80 million for the Kingdome, which was razed in 2000.
  • The story has been similar in Indianapolis and Philadelphia.
  • In Houston, Kansas City, Mo., Memphis and Pittsburgh, residents are paying for stadiums and arenas that were abandoned by the teams they were built for.

But Giants Stadium is the granddaddy of phantom facilities, says the Times.  

  • Taxpayers in New Jersey this year will pay $35.8 million in principal and interest on the $266 million in remaining bonds for the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which opened in 1976 and includes the Izod Center and a horse racing track.
  • Those bonds will not be paid until 2025.

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. 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 built Shea Stadium for the expansion Mets, Atlanta put up Fulton County Stadium to lure the Braves 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.

Source:  Ken Belson, "As Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives On," New York Times, September 7, 2010.

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