The Phoenix city council votes tomorrow on the city’s proposed $168 million Suns arena renovation plan, and the Arizona Republic’s Jessica Boehm took the opportunity for a deep dive into the history of people hating stadium and arena subsidies, and found that yep, people sure do have a history of hating stadium and arena subsidies:
Sports deals have never been wildly popular. In 1997, a disgruntled man shot former County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox in the back and claimed it was justified because of her support of a tax hike to build the Diamondbacks ballpark…
“Slowly, over time, we’ve seen more and more of these deals and more and more economic studies showing that they’re not productive for cities,” said Neil deMause, co-author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit and a companion website that critiques professional sports deals…
With three of the four major sports teams searching for a new opportunity, it’s a lot for a community to handle, [University of Michigan sport management professor Mark] Rosentraub said.
“If they had come at different times it may have been easier to swallow, but it’s difficult to swallow everything at once,” he said.
Also, the Suns are terrible, and sports teams are even more fabulous money-makers than in the past, and you know the drill (and also I don’t to quote Boehm quoting me more). Plus, Boehm confirms that while the public money that would go into the arena project would come from the Phoenix Sports Facilities Fund, not the city’s general fund, the city absolutely could spend that money on other tourism needs, thus saving general fund money, if it told the Suns to go pound sand.
Of course, the one thing that Boehm’s story doesn’t address is that regardless of whether Phoenix residents still hate the deal or have been swayed by city leaders’ incessant repeating that no, no, really it’s a good thing, it doesn’t much matter, because the fate of the bill is going to depend on whether the holdout councilmembers who delayed the plan’s approval back in December now say okay, we talked about it and nobody yelled too loud at the public hearings so fine, go ahead or not. Public opinion isn’t what matters here, it’s public officials’ perception of public opinion, which is a far murkier thing.
Also, late last week Phoenix revealed the breakdown of the planned arena costs, and while the biggest share — $99.58 million for new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and communication systems — genuinely sounds like an upkeep issue, the next-biggest line item — $26.37 million for “furniture, fixtures, and equipment” plus upgrades to food service areas — uh, really does not. It would certainly make the arena nicer and potentially more profitable, which nobody is arguing, but then wouldn’t it make sense for the Suns (or concessionaires) to pay more to use the upgraded facilities? Is anybody on the Phoenix city council going to ask this question? I know the probable answer to this, don’t I?