NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

PUBLIC FINANCING FOR PRIVATE STADIUMS IS A LOSING GAME

October 1, 2004

When the transplanted Montreal Expos begin playing in their promised new stadium in Washington, D.C., in three years, taxpayers across the country might want to tune in. After all, chances are they will have helped pay for the $400 million facility, says USA Today.

Thanks to a sweetheart deal Congress has written for professional sports and the cities that crave them, every U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing at least part of the construction of stadiums and arenas for privately owned sports teams coast to coast.

  • The tab is running $100 million a year and growing, as every city with a pro team seems to want a new stadium -- or two.
  • In the past 14 years, 38 major league sports facilities have been financed using the subsidy, and more projects are on the drawing board.

A study five years ago by the Cato Institute counted nearly $15 billion in overall government subsidies to major league sports up to that time, and another $9 billion projected from plans then on the drawing boards. Major facilities have been added to the list in recent years.

Claims by defenders of public subsidies that new stadiums benefit the local economy are suspect, says USA Today. Many independent analyses have found that the supposed gains in jobs and commerce are minimal at best. A study in the mid-1990s by the Congressional Research Service, for instance, found that Maryland's acquisition of the Cleveland Browns, now the Baltimore Ravens, cost state taxpayers $331,000 per job, 50 times more than other economic development efforts.

Raising local taxes to build public venues for private sports teams is bad enough, but tapping the nation's taxpayers is a losing game -- even when it's the national pastime, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Taxpayers get beaned again," USA Today, October 1, 2004.

 

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