Stadium Deals Drain Cities

We’ll kick off 2010 with a post from Streetsblog Network member Hub and Spokes about the perils of subsidizing stadiums in the hope of getting a big economic return:

143709320_662372de57.jpgCincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium turned out to be a raw deal for taxpayers. (Photo: wallyg via Flickr)

This
seems like a lesson that every city needs to learn for itself: Stop
funding private (sport stadiums) with public money. There seems to be a
notion that a stadium is for the good of all and will spur economic
development in the surrounding areas. This might be true
sometimes, but for the most part stadiums drain the city coffers and
produce little economic development. The Metrodome in Minneapolis is a
great example. It is an island on the eastern edge of downtown. What
economic development has it created? A sea of surface parking lots for
game days, that is about it.

Hub and Spokes’s author, Matthew Ides, goes on to cite a December 24 New York Times
article that may have escaped your notice in the holiday rush. It
reports on how taxpayer-financed stadium deals around the country are
blowing up in the faces of the municipal officials who pushed for them,
focusing on the particularly egregious example of Cincinnati’s Paul
Brown Stadium.

In New York, local businesses in the Bronx have complained
they’re being hurt rather than helped by the new Yankee Stadium, which
is designed to encourage fans to spend all of their game-day dollars
within the ballpark walls. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards
project, which centers on a stadium for the NBA’s Nets, grinds forward, with one of the last property owners holding out on the site reportedly considering moving out. Both the Nets and the Yankees deals earned a place on our 2009 Streetsie roll of shame.

More from around the network: The National Journal’s Transportation Expert Blog wants to know what the three top transpo developments of 2009 were. Orphan Road writes about the perceived right to free parking. And Human Transit writes about how geographic chokepoints incentivize transit use in Seattle.

  • The San Francisco Giants went against this common wisdom by privately financing their new ballpark. Taxpayers helped with tax breaks and by funding an extension of Muni Metro to serve the park, but the Giants are paying over a million dollars in rent each year and that rail line also connects downtown San Francisco with commuter trains (the Caltrain terminal is only one block from the ballpark) coming up the peninsula.

    Also unlike a lot of stadiums the park is not surrounded by oceans of parking that would cut it off from the surrounding neighborhoods. Immediately around it is mixed use development and to the south there are empty lots used for parking but they are slowly being developed into more mixed use and residential development.

  • CACuzcatlan

    I hope Santa Clara is paying attention. To begin with, it seems like baseball, basketball/hockey stadiums/arenas are the best candidates to spur development, since they get over 80+ dates a year. Football is the absolute worse, since it only has 8 guaranteed events a year and are way to big to hold concerts or other non-sporting events the way soccer stadiums do (see the Home Depot Center in LA, BMO Field in Toronto).

  • I lived in Seattle in the 90s, where Seattle went on a binge of stadium building…while other basic services suffered. They caved to the demands of the Mariners and built a shoppingmall/stadium with a retractable roof (even though SF has more rain days than Seattle does during baseball season). Then, they gave the Sonics a luxury stadium (the new owners just recently decided to leave, saying it was no good after only 10 years!), again with all sorts of concessions that keep people indoors. Then, they allowed a billionaire to not only put on the ballot demolishing the Kingdome (built at the behest of the NFL to get the Seahawks in the 70s) but allowed him to pay for the ENTIRE COST OF THE SPECIAL ELECTION, and hired every single political consultant to ensure opposition was fractured. The result is that the city, the county and the state spent untold billions on 3 stadiums, one of which is not only empty, but was also made so that Seattle will never get an NHL franchise (the Sonics arena).

    The whole thing was an example of big business using local government to fund and guarantee their pet projects. Meanwhile if you owned an actual business in Seattle, you saw your taxes go up. Epic planning fail.