By Ken Reed

Politicians are so messed up, so misguided, that they can declare bankruptcy one day, and then approve millions of taxpayer dollars to build a sparkling sports palace for a wealthy team owner the next.

That’s not hyperbole, it actually recently happened in Michigan.

As The Nation sports policy columnist Dave Zirin so aptly put it:

“The very week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder granted a state-appointed emergency manager’s request to declare the Motor City bankrupt, the Tea Party governor gave a big thumbs-up to a plan for a new $650 million Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. Almost half of that $650 million will be paid with public funds.”

The right-wing spin masters love to claim that new stadiums and arenas revitalize cities, put people to work, and lead to economic booms. The evidence says the contrary.

Upon thorough analysis, rarely do these public stadium projects provide any positive financial impact for a city. The gross and net job gains are pathetically small. Roger Noll, a Stanford economist and expert on the economic impact of new stadia, emphatically believes that publicly-financed stadiums are not a net local benefit. (See previous League of Fans take on publicly-financed stadium projects)

Detroit provides a perfect case study on the economic impact — or lack thereof — of new taxpayer-built stadiums. Detroit built the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field. Each of these publicly-financed sports palaces was promoted as a way to turn Detroit’s fortunes around. Obviously, those new stadiums did very little to boost Detroit’s overall economic situation.

Michigan governor Rick Snyder should be ashamed of himself. He’s the most recent low-life politician in the public spotlight. After watching Detroit file bankruptcy and slash the city’s budgets for a multitude of city services, he approves $283 million in taxpayer money to go to a new sports palace for Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, whose family is worth close to $3 billion.

We now have a leader in the politicians’ clubhouse for “warped priorities.” His name is Rick Snyder.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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