Do You Think Cities Should Spend Tax Dollars on Sports Stadiums?

For quite some time, I’ve found it very odd that billionaire sports team owners ask cities to pay for sports stadiums.

The logic often used to justify tax dollars being used in this way is if you build a stadium, more people (local and tourists) visit the surrounding bars, restaurants, and shops, boosting the local economy.

The problem is that the majority of economists agree that the benefits provided by a successful stadium never catch up to the costs.

I was talking with my dad about this a few days ago during my weekly phone call home. He was the budget director–and eventually the supervisor (the equivalent of an unelected mayor)–for the county where I grew up. I asked him if he agreed with this economic theory.

But, he said, there is actually one sports-related expense from which he saw incredible results: youth sports parks.

Dad shared an example from our county. Without going into too many details, basically the county helped fund a really nice area for hosting soccer tournaments (and maybe other sports too). When the fields weren’t used for tournaments, they were used by local sports teams for games and practice.

During the tournaments, parents and kids travel from all over the country to the sports park. They stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and spend money at local stores/vendors.

If you have kids or were a kid who was involved in sports, you know how often these tournaments happen and the lengths parents will go to watch their kid. It’s a big deal–there’s a sense of pride that professional sports rarely match.

This hadn’t ever occurred to me, and I thought it was pretty brilliant. Arguably, you could still say that you don’t want tax dollars going to a youth sports park, especially if you don’t have kids, but at least it appears that it could have a much better boost on the local economy than a football stadium costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

What do you think about this topic?


6 Responses to “Do You Think Cities Should Spend Tax Dollars on Sports Stadiums?”

  1. Jeff Spenner says:

    Perhaps surprisingly for me, I don’t mind the concept of tax dollars going towards sportsing stadiums…as long as they also go toward arts institutions, music venues, civic centers, community gardens, etc. Anything for the betterment of life and humanity (and I begrudgingly admit that, for many, sports enriches their lives). There has to be a limit, though, and I feel that taxes contributed should be a percentage based on the annual revenue of the organization.

    • David Neumann says:

      The problem is that art institutions, civic centers, community gardens are government owned and not owned by billionaires. Subsidizing sports stadiums is literally paying billionaires so they can make more money. Most stadium deals have 0 return to the public sector, all parking and concession revenue flow directly to the owners.

    • I agree, but free to non-profits. And include all events that draw spectators—including board game tournaments and science project competitions (both of which would benefit from being regarded as sports).

  2. csdaley says:

    No I don’t. The city of Oakland poured hundreds of millions of dollars into refurbishing the Oakland Coliseum to get the Raiders back. They are still massively in debt because of this deal. Meanwhile, the Raiders are leaving again and their school system went bankrupt.

  3. Stephen says:

    No.

    However, publicly owned community and/or youth sports facilities feels like a good way of spending tax dollars, aside the RoI your father mentions.

  4. joepunman says:

    Philosophically I really disagree with using tax dollars for stadiums, especially Major league type deals. I remember the promises of “ballpark village in St. Louis when they built the new Busch Stadium. It took several years before anything happened. There are a lot of hopes and promises that never get fulfilled.

    I get why owners do it though. They are businessmen and are trying to turn a profit and they have trouble if they do it themselves. I get it, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

    This issue nearly destroyed my favorite team (Minnesota Twins) in 2001 when they were nearly contracted because the owners couldn’t secure a deal for a stadium. It’s frustrating for sure, but at the end of the day, there really are so many better things to spend our tax dollars on.

    I do like the idea of spending it for youth sports though. Especially if returns are good. A friend of mine and I have discussed that our local area should turn our half empty mall into a youth sports complex. Doubt it would happen though.

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