Out of Control Policy Blog

Good for them

D.C. council members insisted that private funding be included for a new baseball stadium in Washington. The decision could halt the arrival of Major League Baseball, but at least D.C. leaders refused to fall at the feet of zillionaire team owners like so many other cities:

[The] amendment to the stadium-financing bill is a modest and sensible one, requiring that half the actual construction costs of the ballpark be privately funded. Take away the estimated site acquisition and infrastructure costs and that's about $140 million -- a lot of money, sure, but only about one-quarter of what the overall package may wind up costing. It's a reasonable amount when you consider the city is still on the hook for finding a probable $450 million more.

It also is a very reasonable amount for the team owner to pay himself. But right now, baseball doesn't want the new owner on the hook for anything more than a fraction of stadium costs. Why? It's very simple. The more a potential owner has to pay for a stadium to play in, the less he'll be willing to pay the league for the team.

In other words, major league owners want the D.C. public to not only finance a possible $600 million stadium project, they want them to subsidize league profits on the sale of the team as well.

So it's not just welfare for one zillionaire, but for many.

Here's Jacob Sullum with some more objections:

- Since baseball is seasonal, local businesses won't see a year-round increase in demand.

- And since the stadium will include shops and restaurants (with the profits going to the team), visitors might not even leave the building.

- A more fundamental problem with the economic case for taxpayer-financed stadiums is the assumption that spending associated with a ballfield will be new spending, as opposed to spending shifted from other parts of the city or the metropolitan area. If people who used to go to nightclubs in D.C. start going to baseball games instead, for example, the city's economy won't be any stronger as a result.

Now there's talk that the D.C. Council Chairman (who spearheaded the private financing amendment) wants to bring baseball to the District and is willing to sit down with the mayor and MLB to work out a solution. Here's hoping she doesn't cave in.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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