The trouble with publicly funded stadiums


Khalil Jackson , Reporter

The new stadiums for the Braves and Falcons, Suntrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, projected to cost $1.1 billion and $1.6 billion respectively, seemingly give Atlanta sports fans a reason for excitement, especially given the poor on-field product for the Braves. In reality, however, these fancy buildings represent flat out idiocy in government.

County and city governments grossly misallocate resources through the use of public funding for stadiums, when instead elite sports investors should fund them. The taxpayer’s obligations do not include subsidising sport; no man who can afford to run a professional sports team cannot afford to fund a stadium.

In a huge number of stadium proposals, those making the proposal grossly underestimate the cost of construction. For example, former mayor Rudy Giuliani estimated that Yankee Stadium and Citi Field would cost $2 billion overall with $1.2 billion coming from the citizens, but the projects ended up costing the taxpayers of New York City $1.8 billion, and $2.6 billion overall.. A similar story occurred with the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas which estimated a cost of $650 million, but an actual cost of $1.15 billion, with $325 million coming from the taxpayers. The people take on such a large chunk of the cost and virtually all revenue generated by the stadiums goes into the pockets of the owner: the calculations do not add up.

We cannot excuse the use of significant amounts of public funds on stadiums while the infrastructure in the country crumbles, and the schools fail.

When the Miami Marlins attempted to build a new stadium on the site of the old  Orange Bowl, they received $500 million in public funding (which will end up as $2.4 billion because of interest on borrowed money) out of a $639 million project, in part because of a plea of inability to pay.

When the team publicized its books, however, Deadspin found that in the previous two years, they worked at a healthy profit. Add on Jeffrey Loria’s creation of a respectable fortune from his art-selling business, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade county need not bankroll over 70 percent of his stadium project, which contains five million dollars on two aquariums behind home plate and a massive sculpture with a marlin that goes off with every home run hit by a player on the home team.

In 2008, a referendum for $40 million to spend on Cobb County’s public parks passed, but despite the money found for the baseball park, progress on the park front lacked. The funding for the stadium, funnily enough, passed without a public referendum. The use of nearly $400 million on a baseball stadium when an agreement to spend on public parks stands, and when Cobb County’s schools lack in quality gives a brilliant reason for outrage at all of those who voted yes.

The idea of two, new, brilliant stadiums in the Atlanta metro area seems an exciting development for the area, but in reality, they exemplify the misuse of time and money in government. Citizens should not praise this waste, but decry it.