NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stadium Deals Leave Fans And Taxpayers At A Loss

May 4, 2001

Numerous studies have confirmed that publicly-funded sports stadiums do not enrich local economies -- despite the promises of stadium promoters. Yet the number of campaigns to have taxpayers finance new sports arenas only seems to multiply. In what some critics term "stadium blackmail," local residents pay twice: once through tax levies for construction, then again when owners raise ticket prices charged to fans.

Public stadium subsidies are at issue in more than a score of states -- among them California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

  • Pro basketball's Charlotte, N.C., Hornets want taxpayers to allocate to them $190 million to build an arena complete with luxury boxes, so they can make more money.
  • Miami officials are scrambling to salvage a plan to use public dollars for a new baseball stadium, after the Florida legislature rejected a $385 million subsidy that included unique tax breaks for the team and new taxes for the public.
  • In Milwaukee, a new baseball stadium opened in April with a local beer company's name on it -- even though taxpayers picked up more than 75 percent of the cost and fans have had to pay a 55 percent increase in ticket prices.
  • In Pittsburgh, the state put up $200 million for a new home for the Pirates this year -- in the process demolishing a stadium that wasn't even paid for and raising ticket prices 55 percent.

Some critics suggest that stadium socialism won't be vanquished until Congress ends the tax break for bonds used in some of the schemes and curtails aid to areas rich enough to dole out money to team owners.

Source: Editorial, "Stadium Blackmail Escalates, Touching at Least 20 States," USA Today, May 4, 2001.


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