Cities to Sports Teams: Good Riddance

Earlier this year I wrote a feature on baseball stadium financing, with the premise that it's getting harder for teams to win funding from state ...
by | November 16, 2006
 

Sanfran_small Earlier this year I wrote a feature on baseball stadium financing, with the premise that it's getting harder for teams to win funding from state and local governments.

As I saw it, public officials and the public themselves are increasingly aware that baseball teams almost never switch towns (only the Montreal Expos have in the last three decades). Therefore, the "Give us a new stadium or else" threats of owners are beginning to fall on deaf ears.

However, this premise is questionable from a couple of directions. Since I wrote my article, Minnesota culminated a fifteen-year debate by signing off on a new stadium for the Twins, showing, perhaps, that public financing still has some life yet.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, I may have overestimated the extent to which opposition to public funding for stadiums hinges on the perception that the team is staying in town no matter what.

In fact, last week Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported a measure to restrict public financing of sports venues. They knew full well that their vote would mean that the local NBA team, the Supersonics, would leave, but didn't care.

Similarly, some San Franciscans, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, were shocked to hear last week that their NFL team, the 49ers, is likely moving to Santa Clara. But they weren't so shocked as to rethink their opposition to public funding for stadium construction.

These two examples reflect another trend too. More and more, opposition to sports stadiums is coming from the left, as much as the right. Historically, fiscal conservatives and many economists have seen public funding for sports venues as a poor investment. Critics on the left now share their view. 

Why, they wonder, should the government be giving millions to wealthy owners when the money could be spent on social services for the poor? 

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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