The Wall Street Journal ran a piece over the weekend looking at the state of stadium financing, and concluding that:
- “From New York to Florida to Arizona, some taxpayers are opposing agreements to fund baseball projects after a decadeslong boom in publicly financed ballparks.”
- This can be seen in Mesa, Arizona, where, although a new spring training for the Chicago Cubs was voted in last week, “nearly 40% of voters objected to building the park by selling city-owned farmland and raising hotel taxes.”
- “Even as some baseball projects go forward, often after delays and on smaller scales, the push back marks the end of an era.”
Not to take anything away from stadium opponents in Mesa, but: This is supposed to be a sign of a trend? Stadium votes winning by slim margins have a long and storied history (as do stadium votes losing, but the stadium getting built anyhow) — it’s the stadium referendum that wins by a landslide that’s the oddity. And stadiums facing “delays” are nothing new either, as witness the decade-long sagas around new stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins that began in the mid-1990s.
Certainly, the horrible economy (and in particular its effects on state budgets) is hurting attempts to get sports facilities built, but stadium campaigns have hardly ground to a halt. As someone who speculated in 2003 about the tide beginning to turn against stadium deals — something I credited, in part, to local governments then mired in red ink — I know better than anyone that you can’t stop the push for publicly subsidized stadiums, you can only hope to contain it.