Every city in U.S. now building a soccer stadium, or at least it seems like it

Some days it seems like this site is turning into Soccer Pitch of Schemes. I mean, seriously, check this out:

The reason for this flood of soccer stadium building has less to do with soccer being the sport of millennials or whatever, and more to do with there being umpteen gazillion soccer teams in the U.S. now, and more on the way, and lots of them not having brand-new stadiums of their own because sometimes there just isn’t time to do that before you have to collect some more expansion fees, you know? Which should cut both ways — if MLS and the USL alike are going to expand to every city with its own post office, you’d think that cities wouldn’t need to spend big bucks on stadium funding in order to have a shot at a franchise — but here we have Switchbacks president Nick Ragain saying of the Colorado Springs vote that “what it means is we have a long-term professional soccer team in Colorado Springs,” and nobody in the media rolling their eyes, so I guess these are questions that are not asked in polite society.

And speaking of soccer and the media not rolling their eyes, yes, an Argentine football team celebrated the reopening of its stadium with a giant holographic flaming lion as many of you have emailed and tweeted at me, but also it’s not really a hologram and fans in the stadium couldn’t even see it except on TV screens. Number of news articles pointing this out: one; number of news articles going “Oooooh, fiery lion!”: more than I can count.


21 comments on “Every city in U.S. now building a soccer stadium, or at least it seems like it

  1. I get that soccer has increased in popularity but I don’t see how its gotten to the point that it justifies the public dollars. For example I get Nashville spending $300 million to lure the Titans. Its Tennessee they love football. Football is a big part of the culture there its an amenity people enjoy and having an NFL team gives you a status. But MLS? Did Nashville become a soccer hotbed when I wasn’t looking?

    • In my view none of it can be justified… if people in and around Nashville love football, there should be enough of a market for tickets that you can charge an “extra” amount to cover the amortized cost of building the stadium. You know, like every other business does.

      The amortized construction cost of a $500m 65,000 seat stadium used just ten times per year over 35 years is just under $22 per seat/ticket.

      I agree with you on MLS… the only rationale I can come up with for this spree is that the bar to entry is lower with MLS, so you can claim the same phony baloney benefits while spending 1/10th (or so) of the cost of a stadium for a sport that might actually produce some revenue (though as we’ve seen, not nearly enough to pay for the subsidy, let alone earn the taxpayers a return).

      MLS stadium subsidies look to me like a total loss investment… but at least they are ‘cheaper’ to fund than an MLB, NBA or NFL stadium.

      Maybe it’s the stadium version of “I’m going to buy this crappy car that won’t last me 6 years because it is $10k cheaper than that other one (that might last me 20 years or more)?

      • I’ve paid taxes for parks and art museums I never went to. Municipalities pay for amenities all the time. So that’s why I get cities paying for football, baseball, etc. I don’t get $200 million for MLS or $35 million for a lower level of soccer. I follow Premier League and I know a lot of people who follow Serie A, La Liga, etc. I don’t know any hard core MLS fans and I currently live in Toronto where the MLS team won the title 2 years ago and was the runner up this year.

        • How many sports teams are government run and/or operated as non-profits?

          None.

          They aren’t remotely the same as parks or museums.

          • Either way you’re subsidizing other people’s hobbies. When I was in Cleveland people screamed bloody murder over 4.5 cents per pack of cigarettes for stadiums but were perfectly cool with 30 cents per pack for the arts. They are both recreational activities that not 100% of the population participates in. Yes sports teams are profitable and the arts are not but that just shows which one is more valued in the community

          • The taxes for the Arts in Cuyahoga Co was $16M in total and were distrubuted to a wide range of organizations (including for profits). The reason the cig/alcohol taxes were not used for stadiums as they were nowhere near enough money for what was needed for building sports facilities (let alone “upgrades” where one scoreboard could cost more than all the county arts public funding combined).

            As the economic benefits are much broader (Aqib’s characterization as “hobbies” buries all the important distinctions) and sustainable for “Arts” in general there would. The economic multiplier for “Arts” is generally positive (I have seen positive–modest–multipliers from decent academic work) while you generally get only substitution effects (and a smidge of lost productivity) from sports (no multiplier at all). Regardless of its many positive externalities of the arts the breadth of jobs created and organizations assisted make it a much better economic idea.

          • It all comes down to choice. What type of society do you want to live in? Culture. Or sports.

            On New Years Day, as with other holidays, in the Netherlands the museums are open. Accordingly, the Dutch pack their museums. Crowded museums and long lines are the result (Note: Get your tickets early to avoid waiting in line).

            In this nation, the population is parked in front on their flat screen televisions watching college bowl games and stuffing their faces. Commercials every ten minutes and anything not nailed down affixed with a corporate logo (I have serious doubts if the museums were open in this nation, they would be packed on any holiday).

            The choice.

            Do you want converse about your nation’s culture the next day? Or do you want converse about a disputed referees call or no call?

            For me, the choice is simple. Culture. As for sports, I don’t want my tax dollars going to subsidize or help line the pockets of a billionaires latest quest to feed his or her ego.

          • I should also point out, in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, they do not understand why we “Americans” say we come to appreciate their culture, then rush to buy crap at the tourist shops.

            It is the exact opposite when they visit this nation. The Europeans come to see the natural beauty that is this nation (the coast, deserts, mountains, oceans, rivers, trees, wide open spaces, wildlife, etc.). The tourist shops are the last place they want to visit.

          • Now you throw a fast ball and me with a broken bat.

            For the common faire that passes for entertainment on the flat screen or movie screen. No. The business of corporate America is to make money, the bottom line. Again, my tax dollars do not go to support them in this endeavor.

            For that which educates or enriches the mind. Public television. Yes. Public television is that which is a non profit enterprise.

            Tough question. My best answer with limited knowledge.

          • Floormaster – within a year of each other the taxes for both arts and stadiums were up for renewal. Yes the stadium tax is on alcohol AND cigarettes while the arts tax was only on cigarettes. It was the cigarette component that attracted the most attention because the argument went that that was taxing the poorest members of society so it was a regressive tax. So why was it ok for one and not the other? Now saying there is a multiplier for arts and not for sports is just bias. Go downtown anytime the Indians are played a team who is within driving distance and there are thousands of tourists. Every Browns game there are thousands of people from outside the Cleveland area there. t What arts even other than possibly the Orchestra do people come from outside Cleveland to go to? Now I am not saying the dollars spent by outsiders or the dollars spent by locals that would otherwise be spent outside Cleveland entirely offsets the costs of the stadiums, however what do the arts generate? Sure there are people working in the institutions that are funded by the arts tax but you could say the same thing about the sports teams. Again both are people’s recreational activities. What the art tax supporters are saying when they support one over the other is “my hobby is better than yours”

        • I think stadium spending absolutely can be justified exactly on entertainment grounds. If for whatever reason a sufficient number of people “want” to be able to go to a professional sporting event, and American sports leagues “require” publicly financed sport stadiums–well, fine. This is, in a sense, part of the argument for arts/culture and public event funding–that it makes the place you live the kind of place you want to live in.

          A Porsche and a Pinto both get you where you need to go. There’s obviously a difference. Is it worth it? Depends whom you ask.

          I think where some people part ways is that stadiums are somehow tied into some very suspect arguments for economic development, education (learn about sportsmanship), civic pride, etc. that are either unquantifiable or when quantifiable doesn’t support the expenditure. The cost-benefit ratio is usually ignored as well. The further question is when a municipality’s expense is somehow “shared” with state or federal taxpayers through a variety of means well known on this site.

          I find it hard to believe that life in Seattle changed that much overall when the Sonics left. Brooklyn seems to have overcome the loss of the Dodgers. We like sports, but the American sports business model seems to encourage a substitution of emotion for fact and proportion.

          • When an economist in the ’90s tried to quantify how much the presence of a sports team was valued at by residents of a city, he came up with a number around $40 million. Add inflation, and maybe you’re around $70 million today, which is still far less than most public stadium costs. (Some soccer stadiums excepted, but I guarantee the average citizen gets less value from an MLS team than from an NFL or MLB or NBA team.)

            And note that that’s the value of having a team, not having a new stadium. So in scenarios where the team would be there with or without the new building — which is to say, most cases — the public benefit from spending money on a stadium is near zero.

          • I don’t disagree with any of that. I would only add that having a “publicly funded” sports team should be seen as exactly that. Do Vikings fans feel like paying $30 million a year for a team that never wins is worth it? Do they get more value for money than if they still played at Metropolitan Stadium? Overall, rationally, probably not.

            As for Cleveland…the number of fans continues to decline. Excluding the tickets and parking, what’s the average fan pay–$25 bucks a person, most of which is inside the stadium? I doubt that moves the economic development needle much, Aqib.

  2. In other stadium news, Here’s what the D-Backs want in a new stadium

    (Paywall) https://www.azcentral.com/restricted/?return=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.azcentral.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fphoenix%2F2019%2F11%2F13%2Farizona-diamondbacks-stadium-seating-wish-list-if-team-leaves-chase-field%2F4168097002%2F

    • That is extremely paywalled, and I’m not inclined to give GateHouse Media my money while they’re decimating newsrooms left and right.

      I can see this much:

      “The Diamondbacks’ wish list includes: A stadium of 36,000-42,000 seats on at least 20 acres. A retractable roof and ample parking. At least 45-70 acres of shops, restaurants, offices and apartments or condos surrounding the stadium. A 5,000-seat concert hall. Access to public transportation.”

      The excerpt cuts off there, but presumably the next sentence is “And a pony.”

  3. I haven’t read all of the 18,000 plus pages of the bill and regulations, but I’m sure the growth of publicly supported soccer stadiums must be related to a provision that deems soccer watching a reimbursable treatment for insomnia under Obamacare.

    • Affordable Care Act = Publicly Financed Soccer Stadiums.

      Makes sense to me …..

      Great! Now with that leaked secret all 585 billionaires in this nation will be signing up for the ACA.

  4. “And a pony.”

    No, the next sentence is “And the money to pay for all of it. Someone else’s money.”

  5. Albuquerque, Austin, Boise, Colorado Springs, East Bay (Crocket – Milpitas ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ), Ft. Lauderdale (aka dual-ing Inter Miami), Halifax (life support, however, plug hasn’t been pulled), Miami, Monterey (calling Ray Beshoff), Nashville, Oklahoma City (eagerly awaiting December vote), Queensborough, Pawtucket, Sacramento and St. Louis (all quiet on the Missouri front). So many soccer stadiums to build. So few taxpayer dollars to chase.

    Hopefully, FC Cincinnati’s new stadium agreement with Hamilton County (or City of Cincinnati) has same clause as the Bengals. After a 6 win initial season, including several hard to watch beat downs, fans are going to need a holographic image to take their attention off of the field.