Remember when the city of Arlington released a crazy-ass FAQ about its plans to spend more than $500 million on a new Texas Rangers stadium, and pretended like the presence of the team was going to be worth $2.5 billion to the city when the actual tax revenues involved would be a tiny fraction of that? Dallas Morning News reporter Jeff Mozier, who’s been doing a stalwart job digging into the Rangers plan, crunched the numbers from the study and came up with a story with a hell of a headline:
Arlington could generate more tax dollars without new Texas Rangers stadium, city numbers suggest
Ouch! But also true: That $2.5 billion claim is economic activity, not actual new tax revenue — i.e., it’s the number you get if you add up all the Rangers-related money changing hands in the city over the next 40 years, regardless of whether any of it benefits the city treasury or anyone else in town besides the Rangers owners. The actual fiscal impact on the city budget is projected to be $134 million in new taxes and rent, which is obviously a lot less than $500 million. And that’s before you even take into account that most of the $134 million wouldn’t arrive for a couple of decades, while the $500 million would have to paid now — in present value, any new revenues would be closer to $50-60 million.
There are other problems with the city consultants’ projections — they included the impact of the Rangers staying in town starting immediately, for one, while the Rangers are already locked into staying put through 2023 — but given that we’re already looking at Arlington putting down at least $519 million for a return of at most $60 million, it almost doesn’t matter how much worse it gets. Asked about whether this was a worthwhile expense, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams replied that he couldn’t think of a better use of tax dollars: “I would love for anybody to tell me something else that is there for me to get.” I’m still waiting for somebody to take up Allen Sanderson on his suggestion of throwing money out of a helicopter — if nothing else, it would make for a nice controlled study.