Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Extra innings in the stadium game

Unlike baseball, which ends when the third out is made in the ninth inning or the winning run scores, the stadium game never ends.

Is it any surprise that in the aftermath of the Boston Red Sox spring training affair, Sarasota city and county officials have decided that Baltimore Orioles spring training may not be so bad, after all. The word is in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The current Ed Smith Stadium would either be refurbished or replaced at a cost of $40 million to $50 million. It’s not like we’re in a recession or anything, right?

As Roger Drouin notes in his H-T story:

Sarasota is vying against Vero Beach, Lee County and Fort Lauderdale, which are all pitching deals to the Orioles.
“The Orioles look forward to receiving a proposal from Sarasota,” said Orioles’ lawyer Alan Rifkin. “And we expect the process to continue.”

As I said before, stadium deals are like Bill Compton in “True Blood.” They never die, they just re-emerge from their coffins.

When it comes to sports teams and stadiums, politicians are sort of like children going through a well-stocked toy store three weeks before Christmas, and eager to get someone else to buy them all those lovely toys. Sometimes, politicians lose all sense of proportion and lose sight of the people they are serving. You can’t blame children for being children, but we have to hold politicians to a higher standard. “I want it” is just not justification enough for blowing taxpayer money on a little-used stadium.

While we’re on the topic, Fred Grimm over at the Miami Herald really hits the nail on the head in his latest column: Stadium plan won’t rev up the economy.

Grimm writes: “Economists don’t agree on much — except on the economic payoff from publicly financed sports stadiums. ‘We’ve got 30 years of consensus,’ [Brad] Humphreys told me Wednesday. ‘Those promised benefits almost never materialize.’ ”

But again, politicians refuse to see reality, Grimm writes:

One might think that 30 years of consensus and an ever-growing body of independent impact studies might give pause to public officials before investing several hundred million in a sports stadium.
Or that 30 years of economists saying “No!” might prompt our own elected officials to hesitate before they give that final “Yes!” to a deal financing a stadium and parking garage in Miami for the Florida Marlins.
Not likely. “Our argument just doesn’t win. We’ve been making this argument for years and the subsidies haven’t stopped,” Humphreys said.
Instead, public officials across the country have indulged in dogged disregard of overwhelming evidence and voted to donate public land and finance stadiums and cover construction costs over-runs with tax money and then hand over control of the building, concession profits, even the naming rights to some billionaire team owner.
Of course, sports operations enable public officials to rationalize signing away $400 million or $500 million or $600 million by offering up their own, privately financed, not very independent economic impact studies promising thousands of new jobs, giant dollops of new sales taxes and the magical regeneration of shabby neighborhoods. The one promise sports owners always keep: that elected officials will get access to luxury skyboxes where they can hobnob with the very, very rich.

And just for a final pitch, check out this story in The Palm Beach Post: FAU stadium plans short of cash after naming deal is dropped.

I have a blog post about FAU’s football program and its origins that I have yet to put up. The dream of a stadium was there from the beginning and it looks like it will not appear in the foreseeable future. A lot of projects, worthy and otherwise (and this one is in the latter category), have fallen out of the realm of possibility in the current financial crisis.

And here’s FAU’s student government chief, who has apparently downed some serious Kool-Aid if he’s saying this. His is the last word for now:

“I think the stadium is really, really important because it will increase the value of our diplomas in the long run,” said FAU Student Government President Abe Cohen, referring to how the stadium would raise the school’s profile, increasing its popularity and making admission more competitive. “More people will want to apply here.”


November 13, 2008 - Posted by | The business of sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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