Arlington evenly split on $500m Rangers stadium subsidy, Trump meltdown could sway vote

There’s a new poll out on the Texas Rangers‘ stadium subsidy vote in Arlington, and it implies that the vote could be defeated by, of all things, Donald Trump.

Bear with me here: The polling is evenly split, with 42% of Arlington voters saying they support the plan, an equal number saying they oppose it, and 16% not sure. But there’s a significant demographic skew to the results: Democrats oppose the plan 50-31%, people of color 52-32%, women 41-36%, and young voters 48-39%. Aside from young voters, who are more likely to stay home on election day because they’re disgusted by the available options, those are exactly the voters who are more likely to show up to the polls on November 8, since they won’t be at home trying to ignore the fact that their preferred party’s nominee is this guy.

Also interestingly, the WFAA poll finds that voters overwhelmingly don’t think that the Rangers need a new stadium (57-36%) and also largely don’t believe that the Rangers would move to Dallas if Arlington didn’t build them one (51-33%). So at least 10-15% of Arlington voters think that the Rangers don’t need a new stadium and don’t have leverage to demand one, but that Arlington taxpayers should give them half a billion dollars anyway because … maybe like their mayor, they can’t think of anything else to spend it on? The poll didn’t ask, so your guess is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, WFAA has another report out on hidden public costs of a Rangers stadium, and just like their last report, it’s well-researched but inflates its numbers way more than is really warranted:

The actual cost and lost revenues to the city of Arlington may be closer to $1.675 billion over 30 years — at least three times more than the $500 million price tag that city officials have told citizens.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll have no doubt already noted one problem with the sentence quoted above: “$1.675 billion over 30 years” isn’t actually three times more than $500 million right now, any more than making $1.675 million in mortgage payments over the course of three decades would be three times as expensive as paying $500,000 for a house right now. (Money in the future costs less because you can invest present money now and earn interest on it to make future payments.) To compare apples to apples, economists will use present value, which depending on how you calculate interest rates would come to around $700-800 million in actual costs today.

Why is that more than the $500 million the Rangers owners are claiming this will cost taxpayers? In part because WFAA is including an anticipated $10 million a year in naming-rights fees that the team owners would keep (about $150 million in present value) and $2.5 million a year in personal seat license sales (about $37.5 million in present value). It’s legit to look at naming rights, at least, as money that Arlington is giving away to the team despite owning the stadium — PSLs are more dicey, since they’re really a function of ticket sales, which are part of the team’s usual revenue stream — but it’s more fairly looked at as an unequal share of revenues from the new stadium, not an additional cost.

For now, I’ll still stick with “more than $500 million” as the taxpayers cost, which has the advantage of being unassailably true which still being one of the largest MLB subsidy requests in history, all to replace a 22-year-old stadium because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. Which is no doubt why this vote is looking to be much closer than past stadium subsidy measures in Arlington, regardless of how much Trump continues to implode between now and election day.

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16 comments on “Arlington evenly split on $500m Rangers stadium subsidy, Trump meltdown could sway vote

  1. Watched the clip.

    Not only do they not calculate the present value of future money, but they kind of misallocate some of it. In other words, they leave the Rangers total costs at $500M but really some of the money they say are costs to the city is just money that gets credited toward the Rangers contribution.

    Still, if you read the Master Agreement, this deal is pretty bad. What’s crazy is that it’s complete unnecessary. The Ballpark at Arlington is a really nice park in really good shape. That seems to get lost in breaking down how not good this deal is. A perfectly good, modern park that doesn’t even look half its age is already sitting there.


  2. This deal is so crooked and bad for the taxpayers it just might poison the well for future stadium deals elsewhere. That could in theory make this a win-win for the rest of the country even if the ballot measure passes.

    Being I don’t live in the area so have no doubt missed a big chunk of the news coverage, I am curious what the team is saying about all these revelations. They must be saying something as they try and get the deal passed but I don’t think I have seen a direct quote from anybody with the team since the proposal was first announced.

    1. Shockingly the Rangers aren’t saying much other than pointing at all the pretty pictures. And mailing out pretty pictures. The GM a few months back lamented about how it isn’t safe for his kid to come to the games because of the heat. Virtually all the Arlington politicians, and much of the press (to their credit, not Channel 8) have carried the water for the “Dallas will steal your team” garbage, even though Dallas can’t afford to pay their police officers right now. There was even an article in the DMN suggesting seriously that Dallas’ $500 million for an imaginary stadium would be paid by high dollar philanthropists, because that’s happened before, ever.

  3. Take a cold shower, Neil.

    On “This Week” this week I saw the point made that Trump appears to be helping Republican turnout. The panelist was saying that a lot of people are turned off by Trump and won’t vote for him, but will vote for his ideas in Senate, House and state elections. Could happen w/ the Rangers stadium, too.

    1. Except for the fact that that’s the exact opposite of what has happened in every presidential election ever, and the exact opposite of what the linked article is projecting, that could totally happen.

        1. Well, I wouldn’t want to rely on the evidence of the entirety of history when one panelist you saw on TV predicted something different.

        2. For more data points, here are roughly a billion articles predicting low Republican turnout. Though there are also a few predicting that Trump is doing so badly now that it may suppress Democratic turnout too, as voters decide there’s no point in showing up for a fait accompli:

  4. I don’t see how you can argue against Texas needing the new stadium to remain competitive.

    Clearly the Blue Jays were able to beat the Rangers in the playoffs because their nice retractable domed stadium kept them cool and refreshed during the season while the poor Rangers had been beaten down from playing so much in the withering Texas sun.

  5. Neil

    I don’t know how you could say that $1.675 billion over 30 years isn’t exactly omitting present value. I am sure they factored in naming rights and everything else including taxes to build the new stadium. However, the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always work out. Example, Ballpark Village in St. Louis.

    On that note, there will be major costs to renovate the current ballpark to turn it into the planned mall Rangers executives imagine. After renovations and building the new ballpark, property taxes need to be considered as well as lease agreements across the board. Regardless, $1.65 billion might be too conservative and it would be better to see the entire subsidy fail and the Rangers pack their bags for Omaha.

    1. $1.675 billion over 30 years isn’t the same as $1.675 billion right now, and so isn’t the same as “at least three times” $500 million right now. Got it?

      1. Got it. However, I did note that because they reported the numbers like that. It is likely to be more than $11.65 billion in debt over 30 years.

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