Okay, cities and states offering up developable land instead of cash for stadiums and pretending this isn’t a public cost is officially the new thing:
Speaking to Fox 5 on Tuesday, [Virginia Gov. Terry] McAuliffe claimed that he has a plan to build the [Washington NFL] stadium without taxpayer dollars.
Instead, he said he’d pay for the project by selling development rights in the surrounding area. He compared the plan to how the Rams are financing their forthcoming stadium in Inglewood.
Yeah, okay, that’s not actually without taxpayer dollars, Terry. If development rights around a stadium site are a publicly owned asset, they’re one that the state could sell and use the proceeds for literally anything — public housing, new roads, a dirigible docking station — instead of a football stadium. This is what economists call an “opportunity cost,” and unless the value of the land accrues entirely from the existence of a stadium nearby (it won’t), it’s every bit as much a public cost as briefcases full of crisp twenties.
This is precisely the gambit that Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno tried with the city of Anaheim, whose mayor, Tom Tait, demanded an appraisal, which determined that the land rights were worth $100 million more than what Moreno was offering to spend on stadium renovations. Tait killed that deal, but other mayors and governors appear to have learned the wrong lesson, focusing solely on the “hey, people at large don’t seem to understand that public land has value” aspect. Looks like I’ve got a new mole to whack.