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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsFustor’s Fumbles

Cities should not fund professional sport stadiums

Gaudy, expensive stadiums are nothing new in the world of sports. But team owners across the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL seeking public funding for those stadiums is a disturbing trend that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

The Texas Rangers moved into Globe Life Park in Arlington in 1994 in Arlington, Texas. Now, just 22 years later, the Rangers have announced plans to move into a new stadium no later than 2021. On the surface, the team’s decision to move is understandable. Temperatures in midsummer can reach the hundreds in Texas and often lead to lower attendance. The solution? Build a new $1.5 billion stadium with a retractable roof.

The City of Arlington and the Rangers announced plans to split the cost of the stadium, but recent reports found that taxpayers in the city may wind up paying 80 percent of the $1.675 billion, the total cost of the stadium, over the next three decades. To clarify, the city would pay up front with a $500 million bond that eventually could balloon into the $1.675 billion figure.

Residents voted to approve the new stadium Nov. 8 after the city assured residents the plans would operate under current tax plans for Globe Life Park. It’s unclear what exactly will unfold for taxpayers in Arlington, but early signs point to quite a good deal for the Rangers.

The Rangers aren’t the only team looking to fund its stadiums publicly, either. The Atlanta Braves announced plans in 2013 to move to a new stadium in 2017, called SunTrust Park. The stadium was funded partially by Cobb County, Georgia, which paid $392 million out of the $1.1 billion it took to build it.

When the deal was announced, Deadspin found that Cobb County pledged $8.67 million a year to the relocation of existing Cobb County property taxes. While residents won’t see tax increases, their tax money will instead go to paying for the stadium over the next 30 years rather than going toward education, infrastructure or any number of essential operations.

Public financing for stadiums isn’t limited to a select few owners, unfortunately. The Oakland Raiders, who are actively seeking a move to Las Vegas, have expressed interest in public financing for a stadium, while the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium received nearly $500 million from Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis.

While most owners seem more concerned with funding stadiums by any means necessary, there’s one billionaire owner looking to redeem himself from public ridicule. Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is hated by most of the Midwest after moving the team from St. Louis, is looking to privately fund the Rams’ new complex in Los Angeles County — which, by the way, is projected to cost $2.6 billion.

Professional sports teams are feasible business ventures for cities looking to gain prominence on a national scale and foster community at a local level, but they become an issue when owners look to exploit taxpayers for profit.