Dolphins CEO: We’d be stupid to spend our money on stadium, which is why we want to spend yours

It’s always special when somebody in the sports industry slips and says what they really think about the economics of stadiums. Via Miami Herald columnist Glenn Garvin (who is totally not only getting his name dropped because in the same article he called this site “informative if horrifying”), here’s what Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dees said on Sunday when asked if his team’s $200 million public subsidy request for renovations to its privately owned stadium isn’t just “welfare for billionaires”:

“Just because somebody is wealthy enough doesn’t mean he should invest money in a way that is unwise,” Dees declared.

As Garvin goes on to note: “He could hardly have been more straightforward: Unwise investments are strictly for the taxpaying saps. NFL and Major League Baseball owners certainly didn’t get to be billionaires by risking their own money on outlandishly expensive boondoggles. They use ours instead.”

We’ve heard this before in other cities — we can’t spend our own money on it, it’d be a huge money-loser — but somehow this seldom seems to translate into a realization that if a stadium (or a stadium renovation) can’t bring in enough new revenues to pay off its own costs, then somebody is inevitably going to end up losing money on the thing. But then, people seem to have trouble with this concept in general.


15 comments on “Dolphins CEO: We’d be stupid to spend our money on stadium, which is why we want to spend yours

  1. 200 million in public funds must be the new fad in stadium/arena shakedowns. We have the Panthers with 206 million, Miami with 200 million, and the Seattle proposal which supposedly would max out at 200 million. It is a small world among welfare seeking billionaires.

  2. Isn’t that the purpose of government, to provide infrastructure for people and businesses? Infrastructure is by definition a money loser. Why should government have to be profitable?

  3. Pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever heard a new roof on a privately owned football stadium described as “infrastructure.”

  4. Touché, Neil. Though in this case it could be true that the city will stop getting Super Bowls if no roof goes up. Helping make an infrastructure suitable for an event like a Super Bowl could qualify as infrastructure (though it’s a stretch, I’ll admit).

  5. I’ve heard owners make some dumb statements before, but that one by the Dolphins owner is right up there with the Maloofs putting out that Carl’s Jr ad flauting their then net worth as they were simultaneously coming hat in hand to Sacramento voters trying to get them to approve an arena back in 2006.

  6. Ben, the fact the government is a money loser is part of what has gotten this country into so much trouble in the first place. Government doesn’t have to be profitable, but it can’t run in the red forever either. And your argument about infrastructure and the Super Bowl ignores that one, the roof isn’t city infrastructure. It’s an addition to a private building, like if your town or city decided they’d pay for a new roof on your house. It’s a subsidy plain and simple. Two, losing the Super Bowl might be beneficial to S. Florida. Super Bowls end up costing municipalities money due to all the tax breaks and other subsidies the NFL demands for a city to host them.

  7. If the city is going to give them $200mil, they should at least get a 1/3 joint tenant interest in the land and stadium.

  8. Teams don’t want to *own* the stadiums. Then property taxes, upkeep and other costs come out of the owner’s pockets. They just want all the revenue.

  9. Dan: Novel idea that the government should make money, not cost money. We need to explore this. Government employees will no longer be paid, but rather we can create an elegant slave labor system that will finally bring us true equality.

  10. Ben, sarcasm works better when you pick a more accurate straw man. Nobody’s saying that government programs have to make money; however, they should have a public benefit, and “you can sit under the new stadium roof if you buy a ticket” doesn’t really qualify.

  11. The NFL just threw that “roof over a stadium” requirement ruse by putting a Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.

  12. Look, it’s a valid point that the NFL may be bluffing about keeping Super Bowls from Miami if the stadium isn’t renovated, but that is a possibility. L.A. hasn’t had a SB in 20 years and San Diego is out of the rotation until a new building goes up. And if we accept that having a Super Bowl benefits the local public (which, on aggregate, it obviously does), then this particular money grab does qualify as an infrastructure improvement that government should consider supporting.

    L.A. has done fine without hosting Super Bowls and Miami will survive if they turn down the roof and Super Bowls are kept away, but the question shouldn’t be, “will we survive?”. The question should be, “will we be better off if we spend this money in order to maintain our spot in the Super Bowl rotation than if we didn’t?”. I think the answer is, “yes”.

  13. “And if we accept that having a Super Bowl benefits the local public (which, on aggregate, it obviously does)”

    Care to provide evidence for that “obviously”?

    Also, I’d point out that your question implies “…or if we spend the money on something else, or even just give it back to the public in the form of lower taxes.” That’s a significantly higher bar than just “Do we get anything out of a Super Bowl?”

  14. “Also, I’d point out that your question implies ‘…or if we spend the money on something else, or even just give it back to the public in the form of lower taxes.’ That’s a significantly higher bar than just ‘Do we get anything out of a Super Bowl?\'”

    The catechism of the Church of FoS. Now if we could just get the underlying concept implanted in the brains of a few thousand politicians and a couple hundred million citizens.

  15. No one is going to deny that digging a 5 mile long ditch in the middle of nowhere had economic benefits for the community! More ditches for everyone! Economic development, jobs, prosperity!

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