VA gov says he can build NFL stadium with no money, only land, which is just dirt, right?

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.


8 comments on “VA gov says he can build NFL stadium with no money, only land, which is just dirt, right?

  1. On one hand I’m thinking, what do you expect from a friend of the Clintons? Public funds for campaign and foundation donors is standard procedure.

    On the other hand, Hail to the Redskins.

    • PowerBoater, from the tone of your comment, I am going to assume that you are a Republican (my apologies if that is incorrect). Perhaps you could shed some light on something I’ve wondered about, and that is the favor that Republicans show to publicly funded arenas and stadia. Everyone knows that Dems are tax-and-spend maniacs, but the Reps are supposed to show some restraint. And yet look at what Nevada (Republican statehouse and governor) did for the Raiders, and what Scott Walker was doing in Wisconsin for the Bucks.

      What do you think is the reason for the disconnect between the small-government rhetoric and the massive subsidies handed out to sports teams? It strikes me as odd.

      • If I can jump in, I would say: Small/big government rhetoric is largely crap. Dems like spending on some things, Reps on another (Reagan’s defense budgets created some of the largest in history), and it’s just about what excuses they each use.

        And on the local level, all mayors and governors are playing similar fiscal games. Usually whether local politicians oppose a stadium deal is mostly about whether it was their party that proposed it.

        • Neil, do you know of any stadium-funding studies that look at the political affiliation of the government leaders that propose or oppose subsidies? As you say, the rhetoric is crap, and the positions are simply excuses, but having it demonstrated with data instead of anecdotes would help in deciphering the various political positions taken for any particular proposal.

          • As in, are Dems or Reps more likely to support them? Delaney and Eckstein, the “Private Dollars, Public Stadiums” folks, may have looked at it. I can ask around.

      • Well if one would simply look at the Milwaukee Bucks fiasco and that will tell you the R and the D in front of the politician or the donor means nothing when it comes to good ol’ hard cold cash. For those who don’t know: Wisconsin’s Republic governor worked with Milwaukee politicians on a “bi-partisan” basis to screw over taxpayers by handing over a boatload of cash to multi-billion dollar owners whose party affiliation happens to be Democratic.

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