Washington, D.C. has shown a remarkable ability to elect people as mayor who, as soon as they land in City Hall, suddenly fall in love with building stadiums for the city’s sports teams. That’s nothing out of the ordinary — the strongest predictor of whether someone will support a sports subsidy is whether they’ve been elected mayor, according to a study that I’m sure someone will do someday — but D.C. really does seem to have mastered the art.
Which leads us to Muriel Bowser, who as a D.C. city councilmember wanted to spend public money on schools not stadiums, but as soon as she was elected mayor decided it’d be just great to fund a soccer stadium and a basketball arena and maybe a football stadium too. And speaking of that football stadium:
In an interview after her remarks, Bowser, who is running without serious competition for reelection in November, said that although she didn’t like the team’s name and for a period declined to use it, she was focused on reusing the land occupied by RFK Stadium now that D.C. United has departed for its own new stadium.
“We think all of our professional sports teams should be in our city limits,” Bowser said when asked why she believes the city would benefit from the Redskins’ return. “We think it’s important that in a world-class city, we have all of the major things — arts, culture, restaurants, theater and sports.”
I mean, sure? But just as you wouldn’t spend several hundred million dollars to open a new Shake Shack, there’s a price point at which getting an NFL team back within city limits (as opposed to the suburbs where they’ve been the last 21 years) makes sense, and one where it’s a massive waste of money. Bowser skipped right over this, though, choosing instead to blurt, “Bring it home!”, which is a great way to get stuck spending more than you really wanted to.
While Bowser didn’t go into any specifics on how much she’d spend on a new NFL stadium, she did say that her “model” was the D.C. United deal, which you’ll recall involved no direct construction money from the city but enough free land and tax kickbacks that it came to the largest public subsidy in MLS history. I would say that D.C. needs to find itself a better mayor, but 1) Bowser is considered a shoo-in for reelection this November and 2) everybody starts acting like this as soon as elected D.C. mayor, so what’s the point? Maybe they should consider holding a City Hall exorcism, though — Vatican operators are standing by!