By Ken Reed
Washington DC mayor Vincent Gray is the latest politician to push sports welfare on local taxpayers. Gray has reached a tentative agreement with the private owners of DC United, a Major League Soccer franchise, calling for taxpayers to split the cost of a new soccer sports palace with DC United’s owners.
The deal “involves a complicated set of land swaps, tax abatements, leveraged developments, and legal stratagems.”
It’s a bad deal. The DC Council must do what the Seattle city council did when asked about using public funds for a new arena in Seattle, in an effort to lure an NBA franchise: Say No!
Washington DC is already home to one of the worst stadium deals in U.S. history, Nationals Park, home to the Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals.
Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, did a nice job summarizing the Nationals fleecing of local taxpayers:
“After a years-long search for a new home, the [Montreal] Expos would be transplanted to Washington in exchange for a promise of a $440 million stadium — a number that later swelled to $530 million, then $614 million, and ultimately $667 million, almost all of it footed by taxpayers.
“It was a huge ransom — at the time, it was both the priciest U.S. baseball stadium to date and the most heavily subsidized. Innumerable economists had studied the level of economic impact that sports stadiums have on their host cities, and come to the overwhelming consensus: not much. Sales-tax receipts? They don’t budge. Per-capita income? No effect. On the brink of [Mayor Anthony] Williams’ deal with MLB, 90 economists signed a public letter warning that ‘the vast body of economic research on the impact of baseball stadiums’ suggests that one ‘will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city.'”
Perhaps the most well-known sports economist is Stanford’s Roger Noll. Noll strongly believes the estimated jobs effect of a subsidized sports facility is actually negative because spending at the subsidized stadium substitutes for spending elsewhere for which a greater number of people are employed per dollar spent. Noll emphatically states that publicly-financed stadiums are not a net local economic benefit.
Due to greater public scrutiny, politicians are getting craftier in how they go about making handouts to wealthy franchise owners. It’s not just direct payments for building the stadium facility, cities are forgoing real estate taxes, spending money on land and infrastructure improvements, and absorbing interest costs on public bonds, among other methods. The complex costs involved in the land swap and land improvement aspects of the DC United agreement should raise a giant red flag.
As was the case with Nationals Park, the cost to taxpayers of a proposed DC United stadium undoubtedly will be much higher than is currently promoted.
Opposition groups will have plenty of ammunition to use in the DC United stadium case. Here’s wishing them the best of luck.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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