This Is Not A Kickback, How?

Readers will know that I am not a fan of publicly-funded stadiums.  Had the mayors of the 40 largest cities in the US signed a no-public-funding pledge 30 years ago, and stuck to it, we would still have the same number of sports teams in roughly the same places, but without all the taxpayer subsidies.  It is rivalry among cities the creates a sort of prisoners dilemma problem and we end up with rampant public subsidies.

What I hadn't realized was the role of outright bribery and kickbacks in this process.  Apparently, it is routine that city and county officials take compensation, in terms of free personal access to luxury boxes, in return for approving these public stadiums

In late August, when the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sam Jones first toured the $2.5-million addition to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, including 11 new skyboxes, District 6 Councilwoman Connie Hudson said she was surprised to hear the city council would have a suite separate from the mayor's, which is located just between the 40- and 50-yard lines.

"It was announced to me on the day we toured," Hudson said. "We've always shared, like we do with the Baybears."

The 11 new skyboxes bring the total at city-owned Ladd-Peebles Stadium up to 14, as three were built in 1997 in part of the press box addition. In addition to the two skyboxes available to the city, the Mobile County Commission also has a suite, which brings the total of skyboxes for local government use to three, or 21 percent of the skyboxes in the 61-year-old stadium.

Speaking generally, and taking into consideration the differences between facilities in other cities, Bud Ratliff of the Mobile Bay Sports Authority says most stadiums have only two skyboxes reserved for city and county use, but doesn't see a problem with the current arrangement at Ladd-Peebles.

  • Michael

    61 years is pretty impressive. Cincinnati blew up its publicly funded stadium at 25 years so it could build 2 new publicly funded stadium.

  • Not Sure

    One positive thing you can say about California in this regard is that the people in SoCal have been smart enough (so far, anyway) to tell the NFL to take a hike whenever one of the owners tries to convince them that raising taxes to pay for a new football stadium (and letting the owner collect the profits) would be a good thing to do.

  • Jim Collins

    I'm not sure about how it is in other cities, but I have a problem understanding how the taxpayers of Pittsburgh are NOT benefitting from the two stadiums and will be benefitting from a new arena. It is my understanding that the City gets the proceeds from the consessions in both stadiums, a tax on tickets, income taxes on the player's salaries and a 48% tax on parking revenues. The parking lots are in use year round, not just on game days. This is besides the rent that the teams are paying for the use of the stadiums, and taxes on the employees who work there.

  • Tom Woolf

    There is a chapter in David Cay Johnston's "Free Lunch" that goes over the figures associated with public financing of arenas and stadiums. Have some aspirin and/or Tums readily available as you read it - you'll definitely get a splitting headache and get sick to your stomach. And to think - at one time I actually was building a bit of respect for George Steinbrenner...

  • Johnny Clamboat

    There's a blog run by Neil deMause that tracks public funding for stadiums, along with all of the seedy details and kickbacks. It's quite entertaining IMO.

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/

  • dkfj

    So, I freely admit I haven't clicked through to the linked to articles, but come on, the Lad-Peebles BayBears? Really? The Lad-Peebles BayBears are getting a taxpayer built stadium?

    The Lad-Peebles BayBears?