Got Them Taxpayer-Funded, No-Revenue, Multimillion-Dollar Sports Stadium Blues

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Surprise! Those grand promises politicians and team owners made to taxpayers in their pitches for publicly-funded sports stadiums? They aren’t panning out.

In Indianapolis, city and state officials are considering tax increases because brand-new Lucas Oil Field, home of the Colts (who got a sweetheart deal), is $25 million in the red, and projected to hit $45 million in coming years. Meanwhile, the Pacers are expected to exercise an option to renegotiate the terms of their lease on 10-year-old Conseco Fieldhouse. The team says their current business model “isn’t viable.” They pay one dollar per year to the city to rent the facility.

In D.C., the promised economic renaissance in the city’s Southeast corridor that would be spurred by the $693 million-dollar, publicly-funded Nationals Stadium hasn’t materialized either, even in a city largely immune to broader economic downturns. Office space around the park remains largely vacant.

But even if state governments eventually wise up to these ripoffs, there’s always the feds. Just as things were looking gloomy for New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a $4.2 billion, Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use facility and basketball stadium in Brooklyn, Ratner found new hope: He has hired former Sen. Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm to procure a cut of the stimulus package President Obama signed into law today.

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16 Responses to “Got Them Taxpayer-Funded, No-Revenue, Multimillion-Dollar Sports Stadium Blues”

  1. #1 |  perlhaqr | 

    I hate all these politicians, and I have to say I’m not real happy with the people who voted to put them there, either.

  2. #2 |  Whim | 

    What is really dumb is the taxpayers agreeably to fund $100,000,000’s to replace perfectly adequate stadiums and arenas that are only 30 years or so old.

    These stadiums could last for centuries. But then, there’s insufficient taxpayer gravy for the tax hogs to swill in.

  3. #3 |  David | 

    Meanwhile, the Pacers are expected to exercise an option to renegotiate the terms of their lease on 10-year-old Conseco Fieldhouse. The team says their current business model “isn’t viable.” They pay one dollar per year to the city to rent the facility.

    I am honestly confused. What can they hope to gain from this? A fifty-cent lease? Thirty?

  4. #4 |  Chuchundra | 

    You have to question the smarts of a guy who hires D’Amato’s lobbying firm to try and wrest money from a Democratic Governor and a Democratic president. Focus people. Focus!

    Either way,I don’t see Patterson parting with any stimulus money so it can be used to build a very unpopular sports complex in the heart of Brooklyn.

  5. #5 |  Matt D | 

    David–I would assume an outright subsidy.

  6. #6 |  T.J. Brown | 

    Matt D is correct. An Indy Star article last month indicated the Pacers wanted the state to pick up all gameday operational costs.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    $25 million? meh. My think box has been stretched to $800 billion already.

    If we really contract, I’d expect to see 1/4 of all sports teams go belly up.

    JUST JOKING! Stimulus will work and bailouts for all sports teams!
    My beloved fill in the blanks are too important to allow to fail.

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Socialists need not worry that the U.S. will ever adopt a true free market philosophy. That would leave the politicians with practically no favors to sell to the highest bidder.

  9. #9 |  DJB | 

    Now read this http://www.cafehayek.com/hayek/2009/02/evidence-against-the-multiplier.html and weep.

  10. #10 |  Aresen | 

    Just as things were looking gloomy for New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a $4.2 billion, Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use facility and basketball stadium in Brooklyn, Ratner found new hope: He has hired former Sen. Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm to procure a cut of the stimulus package President Obama signed into law today.

    This has echoes of the Diamond Necklace Affair in the last days of the ancienne regime.

  11. #11 |  UCrawford | 

    Interesting.

    Although I kind of figured that if you were going to do a libertarian piece about pro sports lately that you’d be all over the Marshawn Lynch arrest. Cops apparently decided to confront Lynch because “one of the officers recognized him” and because his car was “parked in an odd manner” (no traffic citation given), his car had the “wrong plates” (no citation given), and the officers conducted a search of his car because they “thought they smelled marijuana” (no drug charges filed) which they apparently only remembered a few days after the arrest.

  12. #12 |  Lloyd | 

    Dr. Krugman wants you to know that these stadia are not paying off because the gov’t did not spend enough money on them.

  13. #13 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    The only pro-sports team in the US, that I know of, with a rational ownership arrangement is the Green Bay Packers. I find it interesting that – at least according to rumor – when the Redskins’ long term owner died several years back, and a group of local business men tried to set up a non-profit ownership deal similar to that enjoyed by Green Bay, the NFL nixed it because the NFL has so much trouble pushing Green Bay around.

    If I were a Mayor or Governor faced with a blackmailing sports-team owner, I think I might try and see if eminent domain could be applied to sports teams…

  14. #14 |  Terrible Depths | 

    Stadium Politics, Part 1…

    My city, Ottawa, is poised on the precipice of a divisive debate about its future economic development: should it expand the public transit system, or should it spend the money instead on a new sports stadium? Both projects have been in the pipeline …..

  15. #15 |  Peter Ramins | 

    I wonder how many of these projects involve sad eminent-domain stories.

    And I facetiously wonder why the municipalities in question don’t exercise eminent domain to seize the stadiums/facilities.

    Wouldn’t that be something…

  16. #16 |  the world’s ours | Periscope Depth | 

    [...] hadn’t expected to find a city with a sensible attitude toward the bankrupting cost of stadiums – especially in California – but I was not rebuffed. “Fine,” I said, [...]

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