Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


...that Kilimanjaro of garbage was no metaphor.
July 22, 2013 11:33 AM   Subscribe

America Has a Stadium Problem

Previously: (1, 2)
posted by tonycpsu (52 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a Browns fan, this seems pretty dead on. Art Model wanted a new stadium, Cleveland wouldn't play ball so he took the team to Baltimore. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth in Cleveland until they got the new franchise - along with a new stadium anyways. And the team sucks and the stadium turns into a ghost town really quick. A sad, sad waste.

Conversely, while I'm not sure of actual economic impact, Toledo built a baseball field and indoor arena in it's ailing downtown and things are beginning to turn around for that area ever so slowly.
posted by charred husk at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assuming these buildings would be near permanent fixtures in the cities, public finding might make some sense long term. (Or hey, maybe if you are going to let more cities have an ownership structure closer to that in Green Bay) What we are seeing instead is that they are replaced before they are even paid off. Replacing the Georgia Dome already is completely absurd, we can't go on burning money like this. The highway and public transport infrastructure that gets people to the stadiums needs repair and maintenance, our schools need funding, our police and firemen need funding, and we should be funding projects that actually have a chance of revitalizing a neighborhood.

The NFL owners are the richest in the world as a group, they can afford their own buildings.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


Good blog and book about this subject here.
posted by freakazoid at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Time For The Stadium Boom To Go Bust? - Business Week, November 2000.

Field of Schemes ... 2008

... I don't expect us to learn any lessons anytime soon.

Here is an interesting read:

Stadiums and convention centers as community loss leaders, Fed Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Conversely, while I'm not sure of actual economic impact, Toledo built a baseball field and indoor arena in it's ailing downtown and things are beginning to turn around for that area ever so slowly.

It's always worth considering intangibles (bringing "pride" back to a depleted downtown area), but I personally think that the answer is shared space. For the 80% of space that isn't used by the pro team 80% of the time, that space/time needs to be budgeted full-time to local kids, groups, etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had a stadium drama here in our own city. Twice, voters rejected bonding out financing for the project. Rather than be defeated, the state legislature overrode voters and took an existing hotel tax and diverted the income from that to pay for the project. Naturally many of the legislators who pushed the project benefitted in someway with development deals and the like.
posted by msbutah at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm so annoyed at the toxic mess of bad assumptions, conflicts of interest, and just sheer political sleaze surrounding the new Vikings stadium being built in Minneapolis that I've actually had to start going out of the way not to talk about it at parties because it's too easy for me to get all Ancient Mariner about it.
posted by COBRA! at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


[Contingent Valuation Method] asks people a hypothetical question: suppose their local team was going to move if they didn’t get a new arena. How much would you be willing to pay per year in higher taxes in order to keep that team? Professor Bruce K. Johnson of Centre College, one of the best-known practitioners of this method, has repeated the CVM technique in various cities, and the results are almost unanimous: the willingness to pay is much smaller than the typical stadium subsidy, about one-fifth on average.
Sounds about right. Fuck 'em. And I say that as a person who has been known to watch 36 hours of football between Thursday and Monday.
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't even make a proper comment about this other than the fucking Vikings and the fucking electronic pull tabs and it's all fucking bullshit.

ARGH!
posted by jillithd at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's pretty certain that both pro teams in Indy would pack-up and move last night, if it weren't for all that vaunted public/private partnership money (as in, the public pays for the stadiums, and the private interests make a profit). Indy isn't exactly a destination anyone want to travel to for a football game.

FFS, now even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wants some public lard, after over 100 years of being a totally private entity.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pretty much what COBRA! said about the Vikings stadium, but replace the coherence with a torrent of blackened filth and screaming.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


We are in the midst of this now, as the city council is exploring the possibility of bringing the Hagerstown Suns Single-A franchise to Fredericksburg VA.
posted by COD at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2013


oldie but goodie: Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:09 PM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


It was completely shameful that Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, left-wingers the both of them, got behind that Vikings stadium. So, so, so aggravating.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was completely shameful that Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, left-wingers the both of them, got behind that Vikings stadium. So, so, so aggravating.

I'm having a hard time deciding how much credit Dayton got back from me with the gay marriage law; up until that point, his stadium antics had put me off so badly that I was really hoping someone would primary him.
posted by COBRA! at 12:15 PM on July 22, 2013


Tonight I plan to go watch a movie in my municipally-owned pro sports stadium. (Up on the Jumbotron!) If cities are going to spend money on stadiums, they need to make sure they're usable by as many members of the community as possible for as many purposes as possible.
posted by asperity at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


...and then there's the goddamned Strib cheerleading from the op-ed page for the new stadium with a surrounding park which would coincidentally require public purchase (at inflated prices) of the land the newspaper owns.

I mean, goddammit. If I had a pitchfork and torches in my office, I'd try to lead a mob over there right now.
posted by COBRA! at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Conversely, while I'm not sure of actual economic impact, Toledo built a baseball field and indoor arena in it's ailing downtown and things are beginning to turn around for that area ever so slowly.

I don't know of any actual numbers, but intuitively, I'd imagine there is a difference between building a "destination" downtown where it could be potentially surrounded by businesses (bars, restaurants, hell, even private parking) and building a huge stadium out in the cornfields surrounded by acres of parking lot, where people drive to the game and then drive home.
posted by madajb at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


madajb:
I don't know of any actual numbers, but intuitively, I'd imagine there is a difference between building a "destination" downtown where it could be potentially surrounded by businesses (bars, restaurants, hell, even private parking) and building a huge stadium out in the cornfields surrounded by acres of parking lot, where people drive to the game and then drive home.
That's pretty much it. The Mudhens originally played out in the suburbs - people drove out and then drove back home. The new stadium is smack downtown and there have been a growing number of bars, restaurants and shops opening up ever since. The Warehouse district is becoming a destination for young artists. Now there's talk of converting old downtown buildings into condos. There's still lots of empty buildings but things are picking up. Of course now the word "gentrification" is beginning to get tossed around...

As for the stadium itself I think the best thing about it is summed up by some statues along the sidewalk outside. The wood fence only exists for the sculpture - the rest is an iron fence you can see through easily while walking down the street.

Okay, I admit it. I'm actually proud of our stadium here in Toledo. Will never promise that it will go as well for anyone else, though.
posted by charred husk at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


But where would we have our spectacles?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


But where would we have our spectacles?
posted by blue_beetle


In the perfectly serviceable old stadiums being knocked down for the new ones.
posted by COBRA! at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2013


As for the stadium itself I think the best thing about it is summed up by some statues along the sidewalk outside. The wood fence only exists for the sculpture - the rest is an iron fence you can see through easily while walking down the street.

That's pretty awesome.
Much better than our minor league team, who abandoned their full of character Depression era stadium in favour of playing second fiddle in the local college's new generically shiny baseball field.
posted by madajb at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2013


The easiest way out would be a federal law to require the leagues, as part of them keeping their antitrust status, to not play in venues built after January 1, 2014 using more than 20% (or 10% or 0%) public funding for the construction and operation. It would take a federal law of some sort to avoid the "if we don't get the stadium, we're moving to X" threat. I half suspect the reason LA doesn't have an NFL franchise is that there's more money for the owners in using the second largest market in the country as a bargaining chip/threat than there is in actually having a team there.

But obviously, a federal law preventing businesses from playing one jurisdiction against another in a race to the bottom is so far from what would be passed in Congress, it isn't even funny.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


You wouldn't be watching your spectacles in a serviceable old stadium though. Your spectacles would be held in a shiny new venue in a different municipality. There are not as many professional, major league, sports franchises as there are cities that would like to have one, so residents of Minnesota can either pony up for a new stadium, or follow the Los Angeles Vikings. While the owners could afford to build their own, they didn't get rich by using their own money when they can use someone else's.
posted by IanMorr at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2013


Stadiums, festival marketplaces and waterfront redevelopment - are all cargo cult style thinking on the part of mayors and city councils. I'm sympathetic because they are desperate to find a tax revenue solution after the demise of many manufacturing plants. I'm also not sympathetic because it's just another manifestation of the urban growth regime.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a big sports fan living in Minneapolis and I truly wish the Los Angeles Vikings were now a reality.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are not as many professional, major league, sports franchises as there are cities that would like to have one, so residents of Minnesota can either pony up for a new stadium, or follow the Los Angeles Vikings.

While there are lots of cities that would like a team, there are way fewer that would be viable, big-money franchise locations. The Los Angeles [your old team]s is a great threat, but it only works until it actually happens. The Salt Lake City or Portland[your old team]s is a lot less weighty.
posted by ghharr at 1:25 PM on July 22, 2013


spamandkimchi: Add convention centers to the list of mayor manias. $585,000,000!
posted by ghharr at 1:26 PM on July 22, 2013


It's always surprising that what should be the zenith of capitalist enterprise is so dependent on old school Eastern Bloc socialism. Meanwhile here in Holland the Rotterdam City council has just decided not to guarantee a loan to Feijenoord to build a new stadium as too many people found this inappropriate on a time of crisis...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are not as many professional, major league, sports franchises as there are cities that would like to have one, so residents of Minnesota can either pony up for a new stadium, or follow the Los Angeles Vikings.

Gods, I wish someone had the stones to call any NFL team owner's bluff, especially as regards Los Angeles. Pro football has entered four new markets since the Raiders and Rams left, and Los Angeles has a million more people than those four markets combined. If the NFL wanted a team in L.A., it would have one.
posted by Etrigan at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If L.A. had been willing to fund a stadium, they would have had a team by now. The market is worth a ton of money, and the NFL will be back eventually. They are already setting up London as the new moving threat, and that one is the much more unrealistic prospect.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:53 PM on July 22, 2013


My greatest fear of a new Vikings stadium is that once Zygi gets it built he'll pull a Pohlad and just gut the fucking team. Crossing my fingers that he's not that short-sighted but sports team owners can never be trusted to not bend the fans over a barrel and forget the lube.
posted by Ber at 1:54 PM on July 22, 2013


...and then there's the goddamned Strib


Full stop. I'd wrap fish with it if I didn't think it would rot the fish.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will add businesses in general to my unwillingness to use tax money to profit rich owners. If a city needs to bribe a business or team to build, the city has already lost control. The business or team can pull out for greener pastures any time the owner feels he is not getting enough return on 'his' investment, leaving the city with a vacant sacred cow. When will mayors, city councils, governors, wise up?
posted by Cranberry at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much this debate could be reframed if we constantly reminded folks that those with the most to gain by this ridiculousness are the 1%. Ultra-rich owners, super-rich players, moneyed politicos soaking these communities for their own gain, returning nothing more than entertainment that has to be purchased again.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good article.

I have never been so angry at any city council, ever, than I am over the Sacramento NBA-player-turned-mayor Kevin Johnson and the council for approving a massive $258 million stadium deal the same week as announcing they were closing several elementary schools due to "lack of funding". Local police are also running at something like 40% pre-2009 staffing levels, violent crime is increasing, and the city has a massive homeless issue that nobody is doing anything about (the local soup kitchen feeds 1000 people a day).

The mayor rammed the deal through without public comment, but the number of people who actually support impoverishing the city for the next 25 years to build the stadium is astounding. "Fuck education, we prefer the worst NBA team in the nation" seems to be the motto.
posted by zug at 3:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


What's amazing is Barcelona's stadium. Open air. The Pope held mass there. Bruce and Pink Floyd played there. Hosted Summer Olympics in 1992. World Cup. Luxury boxes on one side after a remodel. Public transit feeds with tramway, train and bus. Built in 19 fricking 57.

More than 2 Atlanta Falcons stadiums ago. The third one will cost more than a billion dollars.
posted by surplus at 3:18 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


As far as calling the owner's bluff, Houston did it with Bud Adams, who promptly moved his Oilers to Tennessee. Life went on. Then we built a shiny new stadium in 2002 for $350m that the newly formed Texans moved into. As a taxpayer, I believe paying $350,000,000 to get rid of Bud Adams was a great use of my money.
posted by IanMorr at 3:52 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Naturally many of the legislators who pushed the project benefitted in someway with development deals and the like.

This for truth. It's absolutely amazing what a little circle of profit you can find when the money is tracked. The architect's brother in law has the cement pour and is related to the planning and zoning guy, who knows that the girders which are hauled by the legislator's first cousin have come from his brother's firm. Stock options are owned by the select few and pockets are well lined with taxpayer provided funds.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:28 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


They did this shit in DC with the new Nationals stadium and surrounding area. Not only did they pay XXX million for that thing, they spent like 220 million to renovate RFK stadium to play there in the meantime. (Why didn't they just stay they ass at RFK?)

I'll admit a big part of my ire is that in the process of building this stadium, they wiped out the entire warehouse district of south-east, and in the process, pretty much the entire club scene.

also the Nationals are fucking terrible.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:37 PM on July 22, 2013


Seems to me that this is just part of a national trend whereby public money is funneled into private hands - no questions asked.

IF on the other hand, any of those cities needed $350 million or so for pensions/education/infrastructure/some other tangible public welfare (I'm not implying that sports are useless, they serve the public good too), then hahaha yeah right. We'll soon be just another 3rd world country (loaded term I'm using out of laziness) with great stadiums where the people's hopes and dreams live and die...

(A nation where the gap between rich and poor is astronomical, and most people live in dire poverty, but hey who cares, look at that stadium, and F-yeah, the Detroit Tigers are back in the playoffs)
posted by nikoniko at 5:17 PM on July 22, 2013


My favorite example of this is El Paso, TX. They actually tore down City Hall to make way for a new stadium for a Triple A team (and apparently tearing it down was NOT easy, damn thing was built to withstand the apocalypse). Now the city has to lease office space, no longer has all their departments in a single location (making for difficult cross-department planning and meeting), and basically is going to be spending money in perpetuity to house its own government.

Brilliant!
posted by hippybear at 5:55 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah the stadium thing has been like... why did I vote for Dayton again? I guess Emmer probably would have done the same thing, because giving public money to billionaires is basically the only big government his party consistently supports.

Ugh.
posted by kavasa at 6:47 PM on July 22, 2013


SAVE FENWAY PARK
posted by maryr at 8:21 PM on July 22, 2013


I feel like I read some version of this story every week, but it seems like the deals keep getting worse every time, and the situation in Chester is a total train wreck. I used to think the politicians were actually persuaded by the "jobs and economic development" rhetoric, but at this point, they surely must know it's a scam, and are just funneling money to cronies. Nobody could have possibly believed the Chester waterfront would actually become a destination that people would want to spend time in before/after games, could they?

Most sports fans I talk to don't favor these deals, either, and, from a fan's perspective, I think you'd want the owners to have more skin in the game so they'll be motivated to put a better product out there on the field/court/ice.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


When they built the Wizard's arena in DC, I was unhappy because they blocked G street.
My wife was much more pissed because, as a self-employed home-based business owner (5 miles away) she had to pay an additional tax. According to the tax form, her business was supposed to be benefiting from all the increased consumption downtown.
posted by MtDewd at 10:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another oldie but goodie: PNC Park Threatens to Leave Pittsburgh Unless Better Team is Built.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:29 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have long been puzzled by the lack of outcry from other company owners at the way in which sports team owners get to monopolize the stream of tax money for their sports team, while other businessmen running perfectly valuable businesses for their communities never get access to the same.

I've lived in several cities where either the state, county, or city government has (almost always against the public's wishes) allocated hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to build stadiums which vastly increase the value of the sports franchise that then goes on to play in the new stadium.

In each of those cities, there have been large, profitable companies that have been expanding their facilities, or moving into new ones, or (in two cases) merging operations after an acquisition. None of those companies have received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for their efforts (aside from some modest tax breaks on property and such.)

It seems to me that a monied interest should be a monied interest regardless of what powers their interest.

If the San Francisco 49er's (to take but one example) get to take nearly $1 billion dollars from the taxpayers of Santa Clara to build a new stadium for themselves, why wouldn't other important businesses also headquartered in Santa Clara (Intel, for example) also demand an equivalent level of public dollars for their business?

After all, the money that Santa Clara is taking from taxpayers and giving to the 49ers isn't buying taxpayers any part of the ownership of the team, nor is it giving taxpayers any significant part of the revenue of the team. It's a near-total gift from Santa Clara taxpayers to the NFL and the 49ers.

Why on earth wouldn't other companies demand this kind of a gift?
posted by dott8080 at 5:55 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


dott8080: " Why on earth wouldn't other companies demand this kind of a gift?"

Well, they do, actually. Big businesses routinely play the field (no pun intended) when it comes to where to locate their facilities in order to maximize the level of tax breaks. Maybe on a dollars per business basis it doesn't add up to what it costs to build a stadium for a single team, but it's still a ton of money that taxpayers give to companies in order to woo them to their communities in exchange for promises of future rewards in terms of jobs, economic development, etc.

I'm sure there are situations when an aggressive play to get a big employer pays off big time for a given community, but when everyone's trying to make the best offer, you naturally get the race to the bottom dynamic that we're seeing with sports clubs threatening to leave town for somewhere else that's willing to sell their soul to get a team.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:02 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Dallas-born individual, I can attest to the hubris involved and subsequent race to the bottom that an owner and a municipality (respectively) can exhibit when it comes to stadium deals. Cowboys' Stadium, the goddamn CROWN JEWEL of nfl stadiums, was supposed to (and should) have been originally built in the blighted fair park area (commonly referred to as "the hood") which would have made the downtown and adjacent area a premiere sports destination for 3 of the big 4 major sports. A valid point is made about the types of jobs made available to the local workforce, but being that the fair park area didn't have any other type of real opportunity for the local population to speak of whatsoever, a shitload of job openings right around the corner that pay above minimum wage seems like a fair shake to me.

As it all played out, Jerry Jones couldn't secure the $450 mil from the city to bankroll most of his operation in fair park from a trivial car-rental and hotel occupancy tax which basically would've taxed ZERO Dallas residents and just visiting Eagles fans. Dallas city council rejected the proposal outright (and shame on all of them straight to hell for it), but I think J. Jones missed the PR opportunity of 10 lifetimes by not either looking harder for outside investment or bankrolling the whole enterprise himself at a cost of about half of his wealth in order to move the second most valuable sports franchise in the history of all of the world and eternity "Back to Dallas, y'all" (the previous stadium was in a Dallas suburb). Doing so would have only left J. Jones with a paltry 1.6 billion left in the bank, so yeah I get it.

Now the Cowboys are neighbors with the Texas Rangers in the most boring slab of suburbia I could ever imagine existing in all the levels of MundaneHell: Arlington,Tx. Why? Cause they paid the cost to be tha' boss (They actually own the stadium outright). Now DFW has the most technologically advanced, air conditioned, biggest (potential) seating capacity stadium that is 100% INACCESSIBLE BY ANY FORM OF PUBLIC TRANSIT WHATSOEVER BY D OR FW. Completely unprecedented in the history of sport for a team even orders of magnitude less of a big deal than the Cowboys are. I just can't......even....
posted by NoRelation at 5:46 AM on July 25, 2013


Surely, this...
In the agreement, several aspects of which have not been finalized and would require approval from the D.C. Council, the District and United would split the costs for the project, with the city providing about $150 million to assemble land and prepare the site and the team spending a similar amount building the stadium. Levien said the team had yet to decide whether to build a 20,000-seat stadium with room for expansion or build 25,000 seats at the start.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2013


Red Wings Give You Bull: Why is a bankrupt city building a new $650 million 'hockey arena district" to house the Detroit Red Wings?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:55 AM on August 13, 2013


« Older For 30 years, an ex-con drifter from Saskatchewan...  |  Actor Dennis Farina, known for... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments