Experts Discuss Playbook For Officials Trying To Secure Taxpayer Funds For Sports Stadiums

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The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

One of the best ways to combat public sports stadium financing is to allow time for information to get to the public and the opposition to build, economists said during a roundtable on sports stadium financing.

“The truth comes out but it comes out slowly,” said Kennesaw State Economist J.C. Bradbury. “That’s why they push so quickly. You rarely see these stadium subsidies after long, thoughtful deliberation. It happens, but I think it’s important that, if you’re a citizen sitting there trying to think ‘How can I make our city make the right decision about a stadium when I can’t veto it myself, can I encourage us to vote on this?’ “

The forum on Twitter Spaces, moderated by Nashville’s Justin Hayes, included Bradbury, Senior Research Fellow at George Mason’s Mercatus Center Michael Farren, “Field of Schemes” co-author and blogger Neil deMause and The Center Square reporter Jon Styf.

Topics ranged from the process by which public stadium subsidies get approved to the tactics used to convince taxpayers that tax money isn’t really being used in public taxpayer-funded projects.

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Most recently, the Buffalo Bills received $850 million in taxpayer funding for a new stadium and the Tennessee Titans are closing in on $1.5 billion of public funding for a new estimated $2.2 billion domed stadium next to the current Nissan Stadium.

deMause wrote in his book about the two-minute drill that teams and stadium supporters put on to create a false deadline to get a deal done and pressure to get a deal done quickly. He said the tactic was utilized by New York Governor Kathy Hochul with the $600 million in state funding.

“Make sure to announce it at the last possible second so nobody could debate it openly,” deMause said. “She dropped it right before the budget was about to come. Nobody was able to counter that.”

NewTruth

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal for $500 million in direct funding from the state, to go along with sales and occupancy taxes, leaked the day before his budget appropriations amendment was publicly released.

Bradbury also said that teams are taking stipulations in leases for facility upgrades — like the Charlotte Hornets and Titans have — and using them to provide inflated renovation estimates that they say are taxpayer responsibilities.

“It’s like going to a used car lot and asking the salesman how much to write the check for,” Bradbury said. “I think that’s why those outs are put in there, because politicians want them, not just that owners want them.”

Farren said that the time it took for Virginia to debate a proposed subsidy for a new Washington Commanders stadium, along with controversy surrounding the Commanders, led to the subsidy not advancing in this year’s session.

He called a Virginia Senate proposal “affordable housing for billionaires” as it would have given the Commanders all sales tax at the stadium and surrounding complex plus property tax, corporate income tax and individual personal income tax at the stadium.

If a rock band played at the stadium, Farren said, the income tax they paid for the performance would have gone back to the team.

“If you could just have every team be as controversy-ridden as the Washington Commanders, I don’t think we’d have to worry about stadium subsidies ever again,” Farren said. “That is what sunk the subsidies that Virginia was ready to vote on.”

deMause said that team owners know that states won’t simply just send them money and that new stadiums help teams make more money, so they have found that asking politicians for money to build new stadiums works.

“Even if it doesn’t make any sense to build a new stadium, even if your old stadium is only 20 years old, even if with the Texas Rangers you are building a new stadium that is right next door to your old stadium pretty much exactly the same only much, much uglier with a roof, you are going to go ahead and do it if you can get someone else to pay for it,” deMause said. “And that is just terrible public policy and terrible economics.”

About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.

4 thoughts on “Experts Discuss Playbook For Officials Trying To Secure Taxpayer Funds For Sports Stadiums

  • June 28, 2022 at 4:20 pm
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    Does any pro sports facility/complex create a net profit for the city,county or state?
    I know of none. The local jobs at these arenas are temporary event services.
    The only athletic facilities that should be tax payer supported are those for public use.
    Which is why we have a department of recreation.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2022 at 4:23 pm
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    Like I said before, TAX PAYER MONEY SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR ANY STUPID SPORT. IF THE TEAM WANTS A NEW STADIUM LET THEM PAY FOR IT THEMSELVES.
    I DO NOT GIVE PERMISSION TO USE MY TAXES FOR THIS CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • June 28, 2022 at 8:30 pm
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    No state funding should be used to private enterprise and particularly entertainment. This is an abuse of taxpayers money. With 6M TN citizens, and a $500M bill, that means it cost each one of us $80,000 !!!

    Reply
  • June 28, 2022 at 11:26 pm
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    This Playbook will be called “The Big Lie” extortion of the Tax Payer.

    Reply

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