Field of Schemes
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November 09, 2010

WSJ: "End of an era" for stadium building

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece over the weekend looking at the state of stadium financing, and concluding that:

  • "From New York to Florida to Arizona, some taxpayers are opposing agreements to fund baseball projects after a decadeslong boom in publicly financed ballparks."
  • This can be seen in Mesa, Arizona, where, although a new spring training for the Chicago Cubs was voted in last week, "nearly 40% of voters objected to building the park by selling city-owned farmland and raising hotel taxes."
  • "Even as some baseball projects go forward, often after delays and on smaller scales, the push back marks the end of an era."

Not to take anything away from stadium opponents in Mesa, but: This is supposed to be a sign of a trend? Stadium votes winning by slim margins have a long and storied history (as do stadium votes losing, but the stadium getting built anyhow) — it's the stadium referendum that wins by a landslide that's the oddity. And stadiums facing "delays" are nothing new either, as witness the decade-long sagas around new stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins that began in the mid-1990s.

Certainly, the horrible economy (and in particular its effects on state budgets) is hurting attempts to get sports facilities built, but stadium campaigns have hardly ground to a halt. As someone who speculated in 2003 about the tide beginning to turn against stadium deals — something I credited, in part, to local governments then mired in red ink — I know better than anyone that you can't stop the push for publicly subsidized stadiums, you can only hope to contain it.


I have little doubt that the small deals will continue to get through like the one for the Scranton-Yankees, and the Husky Stadium renovation, but the ones for $500m and up will go down in flames. The problem with this is, that their are teams that badly need new or upgraded facilities (Such as the A's), and they will be at a major disadvantage now and in the future.

Posted by David Brown on November 9, 2010 08:01 PM

That could be, David.

Or it could be that the cities/states that have funded this type of largesse to private sports businesses will be so crushed by the debt they have taken on to do so that taxes will have to be raised significantly, eliminating the disposable income that the average/wealthy fan would have committed to purchasing tickets in these new palaces.

In the end, the 'game day revenue gap' in most markets only exists because there are fans with enough disposable cash to support the higher prices that new facilities command. When fans are no longer willing or able to do that, a new stadium will not necessarily be an advantage.

Posted by John Bladen on November 11, 2010 04:31 PM

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