"Your tax dollars at work."
We see these signs posted near highway construction sites all the time. Now we need to post them in front of dozens of stadiums and arenas around the country.
The Brookings Institute has added up the total amount of federal tax subsidies paid for new stadiums since 2000. The tab is mind-boggling: $3.7 billion.
You read that correctly. Since 2000, the federal government has essentially gifted $3.7 billion of taxpayer dollars to build stadiums that make money for their billionaire owners — but for pretty much no one else.
As the authors explain:
[T]here is little evidence that stadiums provide even local economic benefits. Decades of academic studies consistently find no discernible positive relationship between sports facilities and local economic development, income growth, or job creation. And local benefits aside, there is clearly no economic justification for federal subsidies for sports stadiums. Residents of, say, Wyoming, Maine, or Alaska have nothing to gain from the Washington-area football team’s decision to locate in Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia.
It's obvious that taxpayers are losing money on these stadium subsidy deals, so it's even more important that fans get something out of them: more affordable tickets, parking and concessions; free use of the stadiums by kids' leagues; free tickets for active military and veterans; and so on.
If the taxpayers are picking up the tab, they'd better see some tangible benefits — instead of the same debunked arguments about magical boosts to local economies that are almost never realized.
Keep this all in mind as you hear more in the coming weeks and months about Sheldon Adelson's push to grab hundreds of millions in subsidies for a new Las Vegas football stadium. We'll have a lot more coming up on that front, so stay tuned.
You can download the entire Brookings report here.