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“The monster that ate the public sector”

Jul 12, 2011, 2:06 PM EDT

Paul Brown Stadium

This is not about baseball — it involves a football stadium — but if there is anyone out there who still thinks that public financing of professional sports facilities is a good idea, read this article in the Wall Street Journal about the Cincinnati Bengals’ stadium and then check your position again.

The lesson here isn’t about sports teams extorting a municipality. As is pointed out in the article, it’s about how it takes two to tango, both a sports team trying to get whatever it can (e.g. “holographic instant replay machines”) and a government with absolutely no will and/or ability to drive anything approaching a hard bargain, let alone simply saying no.

As the people in Cincinnati, Miami and a host of other places now know, all sense and accountability is thrown out the window when sports are involved.

  1. clydeserra - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Don’t forget Seattle. But they VOTED for theirs.

    • Michael - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:51 PM


      This doesn’t make sense to the pro OR con side.

      FWIW, Safeco Field is also already paid off this year and will start earning extra money for the public. (On the other hand, arts groups are now fighting to divert the taxes instead of retiring them.)

      • clydeserra - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        Safeco Paid off? really? Link please, what about quest?

        Also, does “paid off” include the 15% hotel tax that people paid

        How about the Kingdome? Is that paid off yet.

        I would be very surprised if that were true.

      • clydeserra - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:13 PM

        And by paid off do you mean, the public is no longer servicing the debt or that the public has recouped the $200M or whatever in 1999 dollars it paid for it.

        Further does it include the relocation and right of ways that it paid for.

  2. Old Gator - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Welcome to Macondo yet again, Craig.

  3. halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    Yeah, there’s no will by a city to usually tell the team to just leave if they don’t like a stadium financing offer and are instead held hostage without a gun by a greedy owner. It has always been that way, I suppose.

    As for “The monster that ate the public sector”, I would say this normally would apply to a guy like Andy Reid, who’s shear appetite for food makes him a 450lb. monster. But, wait, he’s a head coach and not an owner. My mistake.

  4. royalsfaninfargo - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    I am not in favor of public financing for any pro sports cause. That being said if the citizen’s vote for it, regardless of the in and outs of the campaign or the intelligence of the voters, there isnt really much to argue with.

  5. Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Where is that darned applause function??? Craig!! I need an applause button posthaste!

    • halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      I can understand an EDIT FUCTION button, but, an APPLAUSE button as well? I thought we already had a THUMBS UP/DOWN button. Isn’t that duplicating functions?

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:35 PM

        I was just baiting Gator, uhh did I say that? Uhhh, I mean, Applause is not the same as thumbing. It uses all the digits. I’m not really sure how that helps my case at all actually….. Damn.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:49 PM

        I think a middle finger should be added to the thumbs up/down feature, in addition to an edit button.

      • halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:57 PM

        LOL!!! You guys are great.

        Is this EDIT FUNCTION – no EDIT FUNCTION going to replace the pie vs. cake debate?

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        Nah—as far as I can tell, Jonny’s the only one who has said anything in opposition to the edit function, whereas CAKE vs. (pie) will live on, until the truth comes out that CAKE is so much better than (pie). Not even cold ketchup vs. disgusting, crusty, warm ketchup, or creamy vs. awesome chunky peanut butter, can hold a candle to the battle between Good (CAKE) and Evil (pie).

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:24 PM

        Ut, you’re such a kidder… You’re right on about the ketchup and the peanut butter. But please stop kidding about liking cake over pie. People may begin to think you may just be going crazy or something…. Or Canadian…. eek!

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 4:35 PM

        Jonny, Good (CAKE) will always triumph over Evil (pie—no, not Felix), and make it do CAKE’S bidding.

      • Old Gator - Jul 12, 2011 at 5:27 PM

        A hint for Johnny5: yes, gators will take chickens at the end of a rope but if you really want to bait a gator and do it cheaply, nothing beats marshmallows. Gators love them. Really.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 6:13 PM

        Jonny 5: Old Gator Master Baiter.

  6. chrisdtx - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Woah. Talk about burying the lede, Craig. The Hamilton County Auditor is Dusty Roads! American Dream, indeed.

  7. dodger88 - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Tough to top Skydome. Taxpayers spent $570 million ($884 million in 2011 dollars) just to build the bloody thing only to see it eventually sell for $85 million to Sportsco in 1998 and then to Ted Rogers for $25 million. Talk about a return on your investment!

  8. Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    This gets you mad? How about 4 billion in annual subsidies to the biggest oil companies who also rake in 4 billion in profits weekly? I mean WTF Kenneth, WTF.

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:11 PM

      Nothing like corporate entitlements.

    • jerseydevi1 - Jul 12, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      Wow. really?

      Like the ones GE got so they didn’t pay a cent of taxes, vs. the evil oil companies that paid billions in taxes?

      Tell you what. If oil companies are so bad, stop buying their products.

      • Old Gator - Jul 12, 2011 at 5:29 PM

        I’d like to, but my wife is addicted to hot oil massages. She doesn’t get any, neither do I. I wish she would find something else to turn her on with – I’m sick of peeling the cormorant feathers off the pillowcases.

  9. bigleagues - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    This is an issue that needs far more light shone upon it.

    The issue of public financing of sports stadiums is not restricted to major league sports cities, but extends down to the smallest of communities that host independent and affiliated baseball as well as university and college sports.

    As I have stated for some time . . . there is a reason why “Dodd Stadium” is named after Thomas J. Dodd and has never been able to secure a naming rights deal. Having failed at the Double A level (couldn’t draw enough fans from the least dense part of Connecticut) – the still state-of-the-art (with infrastructure improvements done about 6 years ago) Double-A quality stadium, now hosts a NY Penn League team . . . making Dodd one of – if not the best – Single A facilities in all of baseball.

    And it was done, almost exclusively, with State, Federal and municipal dollars in the form of bonds and earmarked funds. The franchise has paid rent, which essentially pays off the bonds and other associated costs, but carrying such a large debt, the City puts itself at great risk if a team defaults, moves or relocates (as the former Norwich Navigators/Connecticut Defenders did in heading down to a AAA facility in Richmond, VA).

  10. easports82 - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Craig (or another person trained in legalese) –
    Looking at what’s happened in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, NJ, etc., with union contracts/public sector benefits, what makes certain contracts re-writable during fiscal “crisis” over others? Those legislatures were able to force changes to collectively bargained contracts on individuals due to budget short-falls; what prevents such actions from be taken regarding leases or other tax benefits a team received from those deals?

    • roadwearyaaron - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:25 PM

      Hefty campaign contributions.

    • ta192 - Jul 12, 2011 at 8:05 PM

      And those owners are more Republican than Union…

  11. rkil - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I’d be interested in knowing how people feel about the argument the city of Oakland tried to use to keep the Raiders. Essentially, the city tried to make an eminent domain/public use argument to keep the team in Oakland. Here’s a link to the CA appellate court decision that was favorable, in this instance to Oakland.

    In any event, if communities continue to pay massive public funds in order to provide the team with the arena in which to compete, doesn’t the ED/public use argument (that did not ultimately prevail) become much more relevant today? To my mind, the team ceases to become a truly private concern when, in order to perform its business, teams have been given 100’s of millions of dollars in public money. I would posit that it begins to make teams look much more like utilities than a typical private business.

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