By Ken Reed
In July, the Chicago City Council approved a rarity in modern professional sports: a major stadium renovation funded completely by the ownership of the pro franchise playing in the stadium. The Rickets family, owners of the Chicago Cubs since they purchased the team from the Tribune Company in 2009, developed a plan in which they would fund all renovations to Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. However, they wanted assurances from the rooftop owners surrounding Wrigley that they wouldn’t sue the team if some rooftop seating had obstructed views after the renovation was complete.
“We’re still talking to the rooftop owners to come to a resolution. Basically, the family is not comfortable making a $500 million investment with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads,” says Cubs spokesman, Julian Green.
There’s no telling at this point how this dispute will play out. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing in this day of professional sports franchise blackmail (See LOF’s “Community Ownership Model“) that a team owner agrees to pay 100% of new stadium construction or a major stadium renovation. An owner agreeing to foot the entire bill for a sparkling new sports palace is definitely a rarity.
As Harry Graver wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this summer, despite a growing mound of research debunking franchise owners’ claims of signifiant economic impact benefits for the host city resulting from new or renovated stadiums, cities continue to handover taxpayer money for these stadiums and arenas.
“In a 2000 study examining sports franchises in 37 cities from 1969 to 1996, economists Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys found that building a new stadium ‘will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city.’ Crain’s Chicago reported last year that ‘over the last 22 years, during which 125 of the 140 teams’ — in five sports — ‘have built or refurbished home stadiums — most using public subsidies — evidence shows the facilities rarely, if ever, live up to their ‘measurable economic boost’ billing.
“But you don’t need to look far to find bureaucrats eager to write checks … Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder approved $284 million in tax dollars for a new Detroit Red Wings hockey arena — a few days after the city declared bankruptcy. Florida is on the hook for nearly $1.2 billion in subsidies, bonds and loans for the Miami Marlins Park, which opened last year but has seen attendance plummet after owner Jeffrey Loria sold off the team’s best players to cut costs.”
If the renovation to Wrigley Field eventually does take place, and the Ricketts family actually foots the entire bill, it will provide an alternative model for other cities to point to; one that virtually every taxpayer could get on board with.
— 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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon