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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Monday, February 3, 2014

Charge it.

Dean Spanos, the owner of the local pro football team, the Chargers, has been bucking for a new stadium for some time. This weekend he was pontificating that cities that don't pony up for new stadia should not get Super Bowls in the future.
“I’ll continue to support franchises where the cities have been supportive of their stadium efforts,” Spanos said. 
Don Bauder, among others, has been writing about the ridiculous notion of paying for these monstrosities for years. We need schools, we need to pave our streets, we have a myriad of infrastructure problems, we don't need to subsidize billionaires so that they can max out advertising revenue and corporate skybox revenue for their sports teams.

If you want to personally finance it 90 to 100% I think the city should be willing to take a look, Dean. The 49ers managed to do it. If you want to pout and take your toy and run to Los Angeles, hasta la vista baby. It will be tough but we will live. Now this is notwithstanding the fact that the Superbowl that was played here was by all accounts, a wonderful and very successful affair. After all, where would you rather play, San Diego or New Jersey?

The Union Tribune has been acting as a waterboy for the team for ages and they think that the taxpayers should be happy to pony up the expected $800 million it will take to get something built.
Now the question is whether the city and taxpayers should be willing to help the Spanos family, the wealthy owners of the Chargers, with construction of a stadium likely to cost at least $800 million. Within reason, our answer is, “Darn right.” 
...We invite this group to stand back and look at the big picture. There are only 32 NFL teams and only 30 metropolitan areas with NFL teams. There are many cities that yearn for a team. And there are many billionaires eager to buy and relocate teams, even as the price of a franchise keeps ascending...Civic lethargy must not cost us our membership in one of the world’s greatest and most elite clubs.
The publisher of the Union Tribune is of course, Doug Manchester, a hotelier, who would just love to have a new stadium built downtown near his Grand Hyatt. So forgive his obsequious toadying.

You know, I have a pretty good memory. I remember the city putting over $83 million dollars into rehabilitating Qualcomm only to be told the very next year that you wanted new digs. And it was their fault that their lawyers got outsmarted by you guys on the ticket guarantee. Sheep trying to make a deal with sharks. You blame the duck or do you blame the scorpion who asks for a ride across the lake?

And what happens to the old stadiums? Gone but hardly forgotten. Here is an interesting article, As stadiums vanish, their debt lives on.
It’s the gift that keeps on taking. 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. The financial hole was dug over decades by politicians who passed along the cost of building and fixing the stadium, and it is getting deeper. With the razing of the old stadium and the Giants and the Jets moving into their splashy new home next door, a big source of revenue to pay down the debt has shriveled. 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.  With more than four decades of evidence to back them up, economists almost uniformly agree that publicly financed stadiums rarely pay for themselves. The notable successes like Camden Yards in Baltimore often involve dedicated taxes or large infusions of private money. Even then, using one tax to finance a stadium can often steer spending away from other, perhaps worthier, projects.“Stadiums are sold as enormous draws for events, but the economics are clear that they aren’t helping,” said Andrew Moylan, the director of government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union. “It’s another way to add insult to injury for taxpayers.” 
Economists have published numerous studies over the years warning taxpayers about the foolhardiness of public financing. This article by James Joyner, Public Financing of Private Sports Stadiums points to several studies illustrating the raw deal for the citizenry. Or this one, America has a stadium problem.

What is the average life of a stadium anyway? 15 years? Twenty? The Miami Arena was torn down after a mere 10 years of service. What happened to the concept of sustainability? The beauty of hundred year old parks like Fenway or Wrigley?

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We will sorely miss you and the team, Dean, but we will just have to find a way to manage. Fool us once...


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

the foootball staium article was right on, but you forgot to add that the NFL has tax-deductable organization....they pay no tax on all their businesses. WhY?

Jon Harwood said...

It is interesting that billionaires have no use for government except when the largesse benefits their grandiose projects or when corporate welfare aids their greed.

Sanoguy said...

I agree with your thoughts 100%… also with the comment by Jon. It is fun to have a home team to root for, but at what cost? The choice here involves what economists call "opportunity cost." Which alternative is better for the community, building schools and paving streets or building a stadium for a few games each year? The choice made is a real reflection on the values of a community.