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Nats Park: an increasingly bad deal for D.C. taxpayers

Jul 29, 2009, 9:23 AM EDT

I’ve long been opposed to the use of public monies to finance Major
League ballparks. For one thing, these teams are owned by billionaires,
almost all of the revenues a park brings goes right back to the team,
not the city, and I don’t think local government should be in the
business of giving such handouts to billionaires. For another thing, I
don’t know too many cities who have been so flush with cash in the past
several decades that they couldn’t have used the hundreds of millions
they’re spending on the ballpark for something more important. Finally,
even if you’re all for a city giving millions it doesn’t have to
billionaires, the details of these ballpark deals are always shady, and
the true cost to the taxpayers only becomes evident years after all of
the initial hoopla and rosy projections.

In light of all of that, this news regarding Nationals Park in Washington doesn’t surprise me in the least:

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is planning to divert millions of dollars from
the ballpark tax to reduce the city’s deficit. The Ballpark Revenue
Fund is intended to pay down the debt on Nationals Park. But Fenty’s
revised 2010 budget shifts $50 million from it to the general fund over
the next four years.

And it’s not as if the ballpark debt is going to go away. It’s now
simply going to cost a strapped city even more to service, thereby
raising the ultimate price of the Lerner family’s new toy box/cash
machine even higher than was projected when the place was built.

I love baseball. For the most part I love the new ballparks. There
is no escaping the fact, however, that these ballparks represent
horrible, horrible deals for tax payers.

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