Field of Schemes
sports stadium news and analysis


This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.

November 03, 2011

Emanuel: Wrigley amusement tax kickback a "non-starter"

The Cubs' plan to renovate Wrigley Field by having taxpayers kick back any additional ticket taxes generated over the next 35 years died a quiet death yesterday, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel shot down the plan as a "non-starter." While Emanuel said he was excited about new Cubs GM Theo Epstein's arrival from Boston, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "that does not mean the mayor is changing his tune about using taxpayers funds to finance Wrigley at a time when his 2012 budget is cutting human services, closing police stations and raising taxes, fines and fees by $220 million."

And what did Emanuel actually say about that? Let's have a listen:

"I'm excited that the Cubs have made this decision and wish him the best. But I am not changing my perspective from the taxpayers just because people are excited. I will still evaluate anything I do as it relates to Wrigley Field based on the interests of the taxpayers. That's who I'm negotiating for."

And when asked about rescinding or adapting Wrigley's landmark status:

"I understand that. And when I sit down, I'm gonna sit down with them and work through the issues. But you know who I'll be representing: the taxpayers of Chicago."

Okay, so that's not actually so much a pledge not to use taxpayer money as a pledge that Emanuel knows who casts votes. Still on the table, according to the Sun-Times: Having the state buy and renovate Wrigley, kicking back a smaller amount of amusement tax, creating a tax-increment financing district around Wrigley to kick back other taxes, using historic preservation tax credits, expanding the area subject to a 1 percent tax on downtown restaurant meals, or the sale of personal seat licenses, none of which Emanuel specifically ruled in or out before storming out when someone asked him whether he was liked during his time at the White House.


i think the real question we should be asking: if rahm he is looking out for the taxpayers of chicago, why does he not remove the "amusement tax" altogether and let the cubs charge market value for a ticket without the city's tax distortion?

Posted by Monte on November 3, 2011 01:42 PM

The amusement tax currently brings in about $80 million a year, most of which comes out of the pockets of entertainment operators. (The marginal cost of selling a Cubs ticket being close to zero, if the amusement tax went away the Cubs would just raise ticket prices 12%, so the face value for fans would remain unchanged.)

Monte, do you think taxpayers would be better served by raising some other taxes by $80 million to fill the resulting hole, or by cutting city services by $80 million?

Posted by Neil deMause on November 3, 2011 02:06 PM


The people coming to Chicago for amusements are not all Chicago residents. They use city services. The amusement tax is a way to get them to help pay for those city services.

Don't make silly accusations about "tax distortions" when you have zero idea what you are talking about. Have you ever spent even 5 minutes looking at a city budget? 5 seconds?

Posted by Joshua Northey on November 3, 2011 03:05 PM

Joshua, perhaps Monte's point has more to do with the fact that a blank check for taxpayer money going to a private business seems unnecessary and, some would say wrong. In Boston, the previous ownership of the Red Sox wanted hundreds of millions of dollars for a new stadium to replace Fenway Park, and with that they expected free land taken by eminent domain and cleared by the city, (across the street from the current ballpark) with a parking garage from which they would derive the revenue and perhaps a ticket tax thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, the enterprise collapsed under its own weight, new owners came in and we have the Fenway you see today, on site and about to celebrate its 100th birthday.

Erika Tarlin
Save Fenway Park!

Posted by Erika on November 3, 2011 04:12 PM


And here I thought the way that all those out of towners paid for city services they "use" (of course, the owners of the hotels and facilities they visit actually pay for those services, then fold that cost into the rates they charge the customers) was through the many and varied hotel room & rental car taxes that most states (and provinces) like to levy indiscriminately.

I have no problem with the Illinois amusement tax. The idea that it "hinders" business unduly is ludicrous. It does so no more than the egregious user fees and credit charges that failed US regulators seem powerless to stop banks from imposing. It's funny how a 0.5% sales tax (that might actually provide meals for kids who otherwise go hungry) is considered regressive, yet a 29% interest rate and indiscriminately applied $75 service fees imposed by collusive and monopolistic private finance companies are just fine...

Anything that increases the cost of attendance can be said to curb business. This is true whether it is a tax, owner's ROI (which is, of course, calculated on the sale price the owner voluntarily paid, not the actual market value of the assets), or Alphonso Soriano's ridiculous contract.

Posted by John Bladen on November 12, 2011 02:28 PM

Latest News Items