NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Taxpayers Finance Miami Marlins Christmas List

December 15, 2011

Nobody has been on a holiday shopping spree in America that matches the newly renamed Miami Marlins baseball team.  But the Marlins would likely have been unable to afford this holiday season splurge were it not that the taxpayers of South Florida financed three-quarters of the team's new $645 million domed stadium, largely against their will, says Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The Marlins have suffered for years from among the worst attendance in Major League Baseball.  The team has threatened to leave the area numerous times, but to keep a team that few fans were clamoring for, Miami city and county officials pushed through one of the more lucrative stadium financing deals in recent memory.

Miami-Dade County bankrolled the stadium construction with bonds backed by local tourism taxes that critics wanted spent elsewhere at a time of fiscal stress.  

  • To complete the bond deals in a tough market, county officials had to pledge they would step in and use revenues from their general fund to pay back bondholders if hotel taxes slump.
  • That's an uncomfortable pledge given the fiscal squeeze in South Florida -- to close a $239 million budget deficit this year, the county eliminated 1,000 jobs and wrung concessions on pay and benefits from local workers, including police and fire.

Still, we haven't seen the end of professional teams coming to officials demanding new stadiums.

  • Since 1993, according to Vanderbilt economist John Vrooman, governments around America anted up about $5.6 billion to help NFL owners build a new generation of 25 stadiums replete with cash-generating luxury boxes and premium seats.
  • To compete with this new generation of sports facilities, NFL owners in Atlanta and Minnesota are now angling for new subsidized stadiums themselves.
  • The San Francisco 49ers, meanwhile, are close to a deal with the city of Santa Clara for a proposed $1 billion stadium to be built with borrowed money, including some $400 million supplied by a new city stadium authority.

Source: Steven Malanga, "Taxpayers Finance Miami Marlins Christmas List," Real Clear Markets, December 14, 2011.

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