I’ve never actually heard of Pacific Standard magazine — apparently until recently it was called Miller-McCune, which I’ve also never heard of — but if this infographic is what it has to offer, then I hope I never heard of it again. Ostensibly an explanation of how to “help a Los Angeles [NFL] stadium buck the trend” of stadium projects, you know, sucking for the cities that build them, it ends up combining the interactivity of a bad Flash game with the informativeness of a USA Today charticle. Among the things readers will learn from PS:
- On the “best to worst subsidies” graph (most of which consists of a graphic that looks to have been lifted from one of these), it says that “Public financing accounted for 50 percent of the new Lucas Oil Stadium [in Indianapolis], offset by taxes on hotels, rental cars, restaurants, and sales of Colts license plates.” Um, no.
- The “Making It Work” chart, once you’ve scrolled over little gratuitous circles to see what the chart actually says, suggests “folding in concessions and entertainment” uses for a sports facility, pointing to the “apartments and office space” of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as an example. Exempt that none of the apartments have broken ground yet, and the office tower was scrapped four years ago.
- There’s a map of the U.S. with little colored markers indicating how much public funding various stadiums have received, which would be cute, except that tons of buildings are left out (where’s the Seattle Seahawks‘ stadium, for one?) and that the figures are drawn from some wildly inaccurate source (Citi Field, for example, is listed as 19% publicly funded, which really, not.)
On the marginally less stupid front, meanwhile, let’s turn to Bill Parker of DRays Bay, who has penned an essay about the Tampa Bay Rays‘ stadium campaign that, like Pacific Standard’s infographic, starts by acknowledging that stadium deals are almost always terrible for the public before asking, gee, can we get one of them here?
I think that on some level, by now, virtually every governor, city council and county board of commissioners recognizes that it’s a bad deal. Yet, they continue to happen because there’s the fear that the team will bolt to another location, and no politician wants to be the one who was stuck in office when the team left town (which is a bad thing for real-world reasons, too; the teams do provide jobs, even if it’s a low number for their revenue brackets, and tend to have pretty active local charity arms). It’s in everyone’s collective interest to simply agree to stop doing these deals, but individual actors (cities, in this case) often have their own reasons to ignore the common good and do it anyway.
And so this keeps happening. But can it happen in Tampa or St. Pete?
Parker actually kind of punts on whether he’s rooting for it to happen there (he says as a Minnesotan, he loves the Twins’ new ballpark, but hates its public subsidies), but the upshot of the article remains the same: Stadium deals are almost always ripoffs, but never mind that, what are the odds of this one going through? Which neatly achieves the goal of stadium seekers: shift the terms of the debate from “Should we build a stadium?” to “How should we build a stadium?” Because everyone agrees that whatever it costs, the Rays totally neeeeeeeeeeeed a new stadium. (Quiet, you.)