League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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Ralph Nader, League of Fans Urge D.C. Council to Use Savings from Convention Center Refinancing for Public Needs Not a Baseball Stadium


Today, Ralph Nader and the sports industry watchdog League of Fans sent a letter to each member of the District of Columbia City Council opposing the use of savings from the refinancing of the new convention center and profit from a future hotel as a way to pay for a new baseball stadium. The letter requests that, if the convention center is refinanced, the savings instead be used to fund the many pressing needs of the people and children of the District. The letter follows:

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The Honorable Linda W. Cropp
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 504
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Cropp:

Before any member of the D.C. Council officially proposes that the District use the savings from the refinancing of the new convention center and profit from a future hotel as a way to pay for a new baseball stadium, we would like to express our strong opposition to such a concept.

While supporters of the "Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003" failed to back up claims that city-funded programs and services would not be harmed since bonds would be repaid through taxes outside the general fund, the idea of using savings from refinancing and hotel proceeds would even more clearly put a baseball stadium squarely against the pressing needs of D.C. that depend on the general fund.

Will this proposal, like the one Mayor Williams put forward, be presented in a way to try and make D.C. residents believe that it's "free money" and that they're not paying for a ballpark for wealthy owners? And will this proposal for public subsidies for a stadium be referred to as "economic development" that will "generate growth" for D.C. when a wealth of experience makes clear that won't occur?

As Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist wrote this year, "There are very few fields of economic research that produce unanimous agreement. Yet every independent economic analysis of the impact of stadiums has found no predictable positive effect on output or employment. Some studies have even concluded that there is a possible negative impact." One such study by Robert Baade of Lake Forest College examined 30 cities over 30 years and found that 27 experienced no significant impact from new stadiums, while three cities experienced a negative economic impact.

The principled questioning in the Finance and Revenue Committee by several council members concerning the "Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003" in June and the promise thereafter that no stadium bill would go through that committee without a commitment to D.C. by Major League Baseball, were positive steps for the District. It is therefore worrisome that a few of those same council members would sooner pay for the wants of sports moguls and developers through refinancing than fund, by the same means, the many needs of the people and children of the District.

Even if Major League Baseball commits to come to D.C., public funding for a stadium will still be grossly inappropriate, especially in this time of extreme financial hardship for the city. During the economic boom of the 90's, and in the middle of the corporate welfare stadium bonanza, the San Francisco Giants failed to gain taxpayer subsidies for a new baseball stadium through public referendum on three separate occasions even while threatening to move the team elsewhere. Despite this, the Giants ownership decided to raise the funds privately (with 5% of the total stadium cost coming from the public) to build a new baseball stadium, and now reap the benefits of a successful privately-financed ballpark that isn't a constant drain on San Francisco's city-funded programs and services.

Baseball owners can invest their own capital in a new stadium if they see market opportunities. We ask that you show courage and exercise leadership by ending the practice of turning D.C. into an entertainment complex by dumping public funds into the laps of private businesses in an attempt to attract "world-class" sporting events. Will you instead focus on putting the District back together so it can be a better place for everyone to live, work and recreate? That is true economic development.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

Shawn McCarthy
League of Fans

cc:
Councilmember Harold Brazil (At Large)
Councilmember Carol Schwartz (At Large)
Councilmember David A. Catania (At Large)
Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At Large)
Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1)
Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2)
Councilmember Kathleen Patterson (Ward 3)
Councilmember Adrian Fenty (Ward 4)
Councilmember Vincent B. Orange, Sr. (Ward 5)
Councilmember Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6)
Councilmember Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7)
Councilmember Sandra Allen (Ward 8)

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