Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Stadium Scam

Finally, the Marlins belong to Miami after county commissioners there approved a financing package for a $634 million stadium project. But at what cost?

So the public puts up almost exactly three-quarters of the cost, and the team gets virtually all of the revenues. That's not quite as bad as the Washington Nationals deal, but it's in the same, er, ballpark, especially when you consider that virtually all of the spending at the Marlins' new home will be cannibalized from existing spending elsewhere in Miami-Dade County — unless you really believe that more people will schedule summer vacations to Florida so that they can see the Marlins play.
Neil deMause of Field of Schemes goes on to caution that this deal could be a "boondoggle for the ages." Or, sparing the niceties, just another example of taxpayer extortion.

So, why do we - and our elected officials - keep falling for the same lines over and over again? The (insert your local sports team here) are losing money hand over fist! They'll be forced to move to another market! A spiffy ballpark will create an incredible urban renewal - like downtown Detroit!

Here's Rob Neyer:

There has been a great deal written about the lousy economics related to stadium building; it's almost always a losing proposition for the local citizenry according a simple cost-benefit analysis. Again and again and again, this is true. What I've never seen, though, is a study of why this happens, again and again and again. Is it because the ballpark proponents contribute money to -- i.e., bribe -- the local politicians? Is it because the politicians are driven to make their mark on things, and building a huge concrete playground for millionaires is one of the biggest marks one can make? Is it because the voters really do want to spend their tax dollars on those huge playgrounds?

I just don't know. We've got the numbers. We've had them for a long time. Yet despite the numbers, the playgrounds just keep getting built, one after another after another. So, now I'd like to see some of the psychology.

It's really weird: people seem to never want their taxes raised unless it's purportedly to keep their team in a new stadium that most of them will rarely visit. It's almost an inane, extremely costly form of local patriotism. The cynical part of me (almost everything above my neck) thinks it would be virtually impossible to convince the same set of people to use the same millions of tax dollars for schools, or libraries, or affordable housing, or small business loans.

Either way, Miami officials have figured out a way to help their Marlins in a way that they can't for their struggling school system.


MichaelKruse said...

blackink said...

Thanks for sharing this, Mike. I love this line:

"By we, the fan means the whole deliciously desirable, immensely seductive group. He means that he is no longer just little old himself, but something larger, grander, more impressive, more important, and thus, more appealing. Sports fans, in this view, are nationalists writ small."