Every concentration of humans on earth now bidding to build MLS stadiums

Nashville is looking to build a new MLS stadium, and Indianapolis is looking to build a new MLS stadium, and San Diego is looking to get a new MLS stadium, and Detroit is considering providing free land for an MLS stadium, and St. Louis is still looking to build an MLS stadium after rejecting it once, and a guy in Charlotte is still looking to have an MLS stadium built for him, and Tampa is looking to get an MLS franchise but already has a stadium.

These are mostly terrible ideas, notes the Guardian, at least where they involve public money. And if the newspaper slightly overstates the case that there’s growing pushback on MLS subsidies (truth is, they’ve never been an especially easy sell as sports subsidies go, mostly because MLS isn’t as popular yet as the Big Four sports), it does contain a classic defense of them from Peter Wilt, the Chicago Fire founder who now heads later headed the Indy Eleven NASL team and wannabe expansion franchise:

“It is about image and plays into making a city cool to live in, a good experience for young professionals, and reducing the brain drain on a community. Things like that are sometimes not taken into account. If Oakland loses the A’s and the Raiders, which is a possibility, then no one will hear about Oakland in any positive terms for the foreseeable future.”

Things like that actually are taken into account in economic studies of teams and stadiums, which overwhelmingly find that if sports teams make cities “cool,” it doesn’t show up in things like per-capita income or jobs or economic activity or tax receipts. Plus you’d then have to explain how a city like Portland, for example, which until recently had only basketball as a major-league sport and famously turned down a domed stadium in the 1960s that would have brought an NFL team, nonetheless became one of the hippest cities in America. (It has MLS now, but the hipness predated that.)

Anyway, with MLS set to announce four more expansion franchises in the next year or so, the league can probably count on some cities stepping up to throw money at new stadiums, so long as they’re not too picky about which ones. (Cincinnati, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, and San Antonio are also in the mix.) Bulk-mailing extortion notes is kind of a strange business model, but hey, whatever works.


15 comments on “Every concentration of humans on earth now bidding to build MLS stadiums

  1. Peter Wilt is a friend of mine.

    He does not head up Indy Eleven anymore, and has not for a bit. He is involved with a group called Club 9 Sports which is attempting to place NASL franchises in Chicago, San Diego and Orange County.

  2. “It is about image and plays into making a city cool to live in…”

    This and similar appeals to people’s hearts and emotions also explain the state of our politics today too, but that’s really neither here nor there ;)

    • Also, wasn’t their stadium subsidy tiny? Something like $17M to help upgrade the current facility? The Moda Center also had a relatively small public contribution. Point being: Portland has done a decent job of not getting bent over spending public cash for pro sports.

      Would point out that Austin, Texas, the other capital of hipsterdom doesn’t spend any money on sports teams (because it has none).

      Small sample but maybe not unloading your public coffers on rich owners allows cities to spend money on things that really make them good places to live.

  3. “If Oakland loses the A’s and the Raiders, which is a possibility, then no one will hear about Oakland in any positive terms for the foreseeable future.”

    This one is pretty hilarious as Oakland is fast becoming the “Brooklyn of the West” as it is losing its sports teams, whereas it was previously considered in the same category as Cleveland, Baltimore or Detroit–all of which have plenty of sports teams and don’t get spoken about much in positive terms.

    • Oakland doesn’t look like they’re losing the A’s. MLB has made it clear the A’s aren’t going anywhere. And the A’s owners are unveiling their latest local stadium plan in that city later this year according to their new President Dave Kaval.

  4. Hey at least San Diego’s MLS group isn’t asking for public money. They’ve unveiled their plan and not one mention of any kind of public subsidy in it for either the land purchase, development or the stadium.

  5. MLS looks like a Ponzi scheme to me. Keep adding cities, getting expansion fees, the only way the current owners profit.
    Craziness.

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