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February 11, 2010
Rival teams propose TIF to fund Cubs stadium
Baseball teams unhappy with the plan for Arizona to tax their spring-training tickets to fund a new spring stadium for the Chicago Cubs have come up with a new alternate funding plan for the $84 million facility: Yes, it's our old friend tax increment financing!
The general dubiousness of TIFs — in which new tax revenues from a development project are kicked back to pay off the development bonds — aside, there are a couple of specific problems with trying to fund a Cubs spring home with one. First off, unlike in some other states, TIFs aren't commonly used in Arizona, and House Majority Leader John McComish went so far as to say that "TIF is a four letter word down here." (Caveat: McComish is a leading sponsor of the ticket tax.)
More important, however, is that it's going to be really difficult to argue that you're going to get significant new revenues from 1) a stadium that's only in use one month out of the year for 2) a team that already plays in your city. Or rather, it's going to be hard to argue that without economists pointing and laughing. But then, that's not usually something team owners let themselves get too concerned about.
I think your arguments are sound but I would like to point out that "spring training" sites are used by the team pretty much year round. The Cubs would use the site for extended spring training, rookie (minor) league, and fall league games. Also, it would be used by players in "rehab" (the physical kind we presume) and the place for evaluating international talent when they are in the US. Florida is in a small sense a better place to have a spring training site if you then use it for your Single A minor league team where a few dozen more fans might come than rookie league.
All in all this is not much added financial benefit (might help sell a few more tacos at a stand across the street kind of thing) but the stadiums are used in that they are a capital asset to the team. So, you are right there is no economic reason for Mesa or Arizona to kick in, especially when the existing facilities are fine and will be for a while.
Fair enough — I should have said "that's only selling tickets one month out of the year."
Has there been any in-depth journalistic work done on the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority-specifically with the resignation of the group's CFO last year? Some pretty high-profile pols associated with this group.
From what I've been able to find on AZSTA, it seems like it's a mess.
They've proposed using a TIF in Sacramento now, too. They're open about it.
And defenders of the Sacramento Three Way continue to insist no public dollars will be used.
I'm sure the Cubs suggesting TIFs for financing the stadium might be a "tip of the cap" to Chicago's Mayor Daley who has NEVER met a TIF he didn't like!
Apparently "blighted areas" of the city that are now TIF districts are the financial center along LaSalle street and other well to do areas within the downtown area...anyone with an ounce of common sense in Chicago knows that TIFs are Daley's slush fund to do with as he sees fit - such as giving $25 million to UAL to move downtown from the suburbs...giving upwards of $30 million to Miller-Coors to move headquarters to Chicago...as well as Boeing, and now Willis (Sears Tower is now "Willis Tower") is requesting $10 million in TIFs for the "blighted" Sears Tower...
How this mayor is allowed to get away with throwing money at these corporations never ceases to amaze me...I guess the Cubs learned a thing or two from UAL, Miller-Coors, et al.
Maybe the rival teams figured that the Cubs didn't get the TIF memo.