New book by Harvard prof details $10b in hidden stadium and arena subsidies

Hallelujah! After years of waiting, Harvard stadium researcher Judith Grant Long’s book is finally out, and while I haven’t seen a copy yet, Bloomberg News has and provides some highlights of her findings:

  • The 121 sports facilities in use during 2010 cost taxpayers about $10 billion more than is commonly reported, thanks to hidden subsidies for things like land, infrastructure, operations, and lost property taxes.
  • Once hidden costs are taken into account, the average sports facility split is 78% public, 22% private.
  • The worst deals for the public include stadiums for the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, and Milwaukee Brewers, each of which managed to rack up more in subsidies than the stadiums themselves cost to build. Best deals include venues for the Columbus Crew, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Senators.
  • Arenas are generally better deals than stadiums, because they cost less to build. And  small cities tend to get get worse deals than larger ones, since they have less leverage to keep a team in town without large payoffs.

If you’re not familiar with Long, she’s been a favorite reference of FoS ever since she first started publishing her “Full Count” data on the true costs of sports facilities close to a decade ago. (At one point her book was also going to be called “Full Count,” I believe, but it ended up with the slightly less pithy title “Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities.”) Until Long came along, for example, it wasn’t clear that the Minneapolis Metrodome was actually one of the best deals for the public, thanks to a lease that forced the teams to actually share revenues; you can read more about her work in a profile I wrote of her for Baseball Prospectus back in 2005.

Needless to say, I’ll have much more to say about this once I’ve actually gotten my hands on a copy. (Which will have to wait until Routledge starts sending out either review copies or e-books, because $125 isn’t in my research budget.) But suffice to say that this is big, big news, and will be a huge boon to anyone trying to suss out the true public costs of stadium and arena deals after all the parts have stopped moving.

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5 comments on “New book by Harvard prof details $10b in hidden stadium and arena subsidies

  1. Hi Neil,

    I’ve been an avid follower of your work for many years. Would you accept a donation in the form of Dr. Grant Long’s book? If so, where may I have it sent?

  2. Thanks for the generous offer — I have a request in for a review copy, so let’s see how that goes.

    In the meantime, if anyone has money burning a hole in their pockets, I’d suggest:

  3. I’ve been waiting for this to come out too, Neil. I checked on Amazon a few months ago and they had it listed significantly above $125 per copy, which discouraged me.

    I understand it’s a low volume seller, but I was prepared to pay about half of what they were asking… Personally, I think Paris Hilton biographies should be taxed heavily to subsidize the sale of interesting and important work like Grant-Long’s.

    Stadium advocates should be in favour of that, obviously.

  4. It’s truly crazy, and I’m worried it will make her data less easily accessible. (Though if there’s a cheaper e-book version, that’ll help.) Little wonder that textbook piracy is booming, as discussed in this article that I edited recently:

  5. Wow this would be a great read!! living in the bay area the giants ball park has always been touted as a privately financed ballpark. All local media coverage of this ball park is always how “it was privately financed no public money used”. Maybe when it was proposed these public cost were disclosed (not living in bay area), but now all reports are “its all private money”.

    Glad your post and ( post comparing the giants ball park to the proposed warriors arena, is bringing these cost out!

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