Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Taxpayer funded Stadiums never up to press hype

Two conclusions, according to this author, concerning public referenda for taxpayer funded stadiums: 1-The local press virtually always acts as an unapologetic cheerleader for these projects and 2- They never live up to the promises of economic rejuvenation. The only thing that gets rejuvenated is the bank account of the already rich owners.

Link HT: Sports Economist

There's only one problem with this scenario. It's not true. Never has been. They do come, but cities are not saved. Over the past two decades, academic research has generated literally hundreds of articles and books empirically challenging the alleged economic wonders of new stadiums, even when they're part of larger development schemes. I have been studying and writing about publicly financed stadiums for more than 10 years and cannot name a single stadium project that has delivered on its original grandiose economic promises, although they do bring benefits to team owners, sports leagues and sometimes players.

There are many reasons for these consistently unmet expectations. Among them are, first, stadiums (and ancillary projects) almost always cost more than projected, forcing municipalities to cough up extra subsidies for fear of having a half-built ballpark in the neighborhood. Second, ancillary development projects rarely unfold as initially promised. However, it's difficult holding (usually) well-meaning developers accountable for this since the stadium "anchor" of the project always gets built first - and, again, municipalities have no use for half a stadium.