This week, we in Phoenix are supposedly getting our payoff for subsidizing the hapless Arizona Cardinals with a billion dollar football stadium that is used for its intended purpose (football games) for 33 hours per year (3 hours per game times 11 games: 2 Cardinals pre-season, 8 home regular season, Fiesta Bowl). In exchange we get a nicer stadium (if I were to want to see a Cardinals game live) but worse TV options (because instead of the best game of the week, we have to see our home team).
The big selling point, the cherry on top of the sundae the NFL uses to push new stadiums, is a Superbowl. Which is in town this week. So far, the huge economic stimulus has not really poured into our household, but I guess I need to be patient. Anyway, the timing seems good to link this article, which comes via the Sports Economist:
If you build it, they will come. This is usually the mantra of those in
favor of publicly financed sports stadiums, including the current
proposal for a new soccer stadium in Chester. In this case they
are visitors whose spending would turn devastated cities and
neighborhoods into exciting destination points. Local schools,
merchants, and residents all would benefit as municipal coffers swelled.
There's only one problem with this scenario. It's not true. Never has been. They
do come, but cities are not saved. Over the past two decades, academic
research has generated literally hundreds of articles and books
empirically challenging the alleged economic wonders of new stadiums,
even when they're part of larger development schemes. I have been
studying and writing about publicly financed stadiums for more than 10
years and cannot name a single stadium project that has delivered on
its original grandiose economic promises, although they do bring
benefits to team owners, sports leagues and sometimes players....
Why, then, given the overwhelming academic research challenging
stadium-centered economic development do political leaders (if not
average citizens) still support such projects? In a just-released
article in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, my colleagues and I
studied media coverage of 23 publicly financed stadium initiatives in
16 different cities, including Philadelphia. We found that the
mainstream media in most of these cities is noticeably biased toward
supporting publicly financed stadiums, which has a significant impact
on the initiatives' success.
This bias usually takes the form of uncritically parroting stadium
proponents' economic and social promises, quoting stadium supporters
far more frequently than stadium opponents, overlooking the numerous
objective academic studies on the topic, and failing to independently
examine the multitude of failed stadium-centered promises throughout
the country, especially those in oft-cited "success cities" such as
Denver and Cleveland.
I can attest to the latter. During the run up to various stadium-related referenda, the media was quite rah-rah for the stadium subsidies. In fact, on radio, several talk show hosts denigrated voters who opposed the stadium subsidies as "stupid old retired people." I remember calling in to a couple of talk shows opposing the stadium bills and being treated like a Luddite.