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Even though I’ve sent out tweets that say otherwise, I pretty much have a perma-boner over sports. I also have a perma-boner over boobs too. I have been to the hospital several times about erections that last longer than 4 hours. Let’s not talk about that.
Near my neck of the woods, in cold, cold, Edmonton Alberta, the NHL’s Oilers have decided they need a new arena. Their current facility, Rexall Place, was built in 1974, and isn’t a very nice place. I’ve been there, and adequate is probably the best word you can use to describe the place. It lacks in seating, it’s one of the smallest venues in the NHL. There’s also a lack of luxury boxes, which are terrific money makers for any team. The team probably needs a new arena.
Like every team in their situation, the team went to the government with their hand out. And the city of Edmonton delivered, pledging $125M towards the $450M price tag. The owners of the team are putting up another $100M of their money directly, while another $125M will be lent to the team from the city, slowly being paid back from fees paid every time some poor schmoe buys a ticket. That’s $350M, where’s the other $100M going to come from?
Duh. Other governments, stupid. Mainly, the city and the team are looking for either the Province of Alberta or the federal government to kick in the remaining balance needed. Luckily for taxpayers, at least so far, is that both the province and the feds have told the team to get lost.
Meanwhile, we have the Saskatchewan Roughriders, of the league that leads all leagues in punchlines, the Canadian Football League. The Riders play at Taylor Field right now, which is another old stadium. It’s been renovated and retrofitted quite a few times over the years, and it’s pretty hurting. At least, that’s what I hear. Like I’d ever set foot in Saskatchewan to see a game.
Good news, Rider fans. The province of Saskatchewan has stepped in with all sorts of cash. They’ve given $78M to the project, as well as lending the City of Regina $100M towards the facility, which will be paid back from a $12 user fee charged to every ticket sold. The City of Regina is contributing $73M towards the project. And the team? Hey, they’re contributing too. The Riders are expected to raise $25M towards the new stadium. For those of you keeping track at home, the team is contributing just 8.7% of the total cost.
Want more examples? Don’t mind if I do. Taxpayers in Ohio coughed up over $400M for
Sam (edit: it’s actually Paul) Brown Stadium, hope of perennial losers the Cincinnati Bengals. (You thought I was going to say the Browns, weren’t you?) Kansas City paid for over 80% of the $276M Sprint Center, which is home of the Arena Football League’s WHO GIVES A CRAP IT’S AN ARENA FOOTBALL TEAM FROM KANSAS CITY. Nice work, Kansas City.
Want more? Sure. Minneapolis’ Target Field cost taxpayers $244M and the both the city and state have pledged nearly $500M towards a new stadium for the Vikings. (Aside: the new Vikings stadium’s retractable roof is expected to cost over $200M) The city of Newark leased their airport to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority for $210M back in 2001 and then plowed that money back into a new arena. The Prudential Center opened in 2007 and already the NBA’s Nets have left for the greener pastures of Brooklyn and a new stadium there.
If I kept listing examples, we’d be here until Katy Perry succumbs to my advances. Chances are, if it’s a major sports facility in North America, your tax dollars had a place in paying for it. Governments have spent countless billions in principal and billions more in interest to finance stadiums that have crummy shelf lives. The Rexall Center, in Edmonton, isn’t even 40 years old. Is this really the best use of our taxpayer dollars?
The arguments in favor of stadium funding are bunk. The most common one is that these stadium projects will entice people to spend all sorts of money at the new facility. Here’s the problem with that logic – people would have spent that money on sports anyway. Sure, a new stadium will get a temporary boost from curious onlookers, but that boon is short lived. Besides, most people don’t have unlimited entertainment budgets. If they go to more sports games then they cut back on other forms on entertainment. New stadiums don’t create spending, they just move it around.
Increased tourism numbers are another advantage touted by the pro-stadium crowd. New stadiums attract tourists to watch the events happening there, not to mention visiting teams. Which seems reasonable, in theory. Once you crunch the numbers though, this doesn’t actually happen. People just don’t travel that much to watch sports. Want proof? South Africa didn’t actually increase their tourist numbers for the World Cup in 2010, and that’s the biggest sporting event in the world. That’s because regular tourists stayed the hell away from the soccer and especially those damn vuvuzelas.
People also argue that building these facilities create jobs for people, which is true. Except the government would probably use that money to build hospitals, schools or roads, things that also create construction jobs.
Need further evidence of this phenomenon? Take a look at Olympics, which have been giant cash suckers since Los Angeles actually made money on their’s in 1984. Since then Athens has crumbling facilities, Beijing has empty stadiums and Vancouver has all sorts of Olympic Village condos that still need to be sold. But hey, at least the world got to see how awesome the city is for two weeks. It’s the equivalent of trying to impress the ladies with your new truck.
We need to stop spending billions of dollars on these stadiums. If you build it, they will come. I’m just tired of paying for it.