Why Stadium Subsidies Always Win: Q&A with J.C. Bradbury

"One of the things we often find about these stadiums," explains Kennesaw State University economist J.C. Bradbury, is that "[politicians and supporters] always underestimate the costs and overestimate the benefits."

Indeed, as Bradbury points out, every independent analysis of subsidies for sports teams and stadiums shows that they suck money out of the local economy. Yet time and again, politicians and team owners succeed in handing the taxpayer a bill. Why is that? 

"People see money going into stadiums, people spending their dollars at the stadiums, going to the games," says Bradbury, who writes widely on the economics of sports. "Really, this is just a transfer from locals. Instead of spending their money on movies or going out to eat, they're going to a sports game, and so it looks like it's generating a lot of money."

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Bradbury at Freedom Fest to talk about the city of Atlanta's $1 billion promise to build a new stadium for the NFL's Falcons.

Held each July in Las Vegas, Freedom Fest is attended by around 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians. Reason TV spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. Go here for an ever-growing playlist of this year's interviews.

About 4:30 minutes.

Produced by Joshua Swain. Camera by Paul Detrick and Tracy Oppenheimer.

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  • ||

    Why Stadium Subsidies Always Win?

    Because they want it more.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    They limit turnovers.

  • Libertymike||

    If a league receives stadium subsidies, it is not a private entity. It is a crony capitalist socialist entity which has no business expecting that its rules, however anti-free enterprise in nature, should be enforced as against one who is exercising his free enterprise rooted rights, notwithstanding phony assertions of free association.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm not going to define stadium subsidies, but tell me again how forcing a league to associate with people who violate its rules would not be a violation of free association?

  • Libertymike||

    First, the taxpayer should not be looted so that the NCAA or MLB or the NFL can enforce its rules.

    There is no freedom of association issue regarding the NFL or MLB. An entity which receives subsidies and / or gets special treatment or gets to restrict labor freedom and mobility, all courtesy of the state, can not be heard to cry freedom of association. The individual can not be said to have freely associated with a socialist construct and therefore be bound by the socialist, anti-free enterprise rules promulgated by the socialist, crony capitalist entity when the individual is attempting to or has exercised his God-given, fundamental, inherent rights to engage in free enterprise based activities.

    The NFL player or the MLB player is relegated to a one-size fits all contractual arrangement by and between the league and the UNION (the CBA). So, you have the crony capitalist and the Union deciding such things as:

    (1) when, and under what conditions, a player can be a free agent;

    (2) how long a player must remain property of a particular branch of the crony capitalist regime; and

    (3) which substances a player can take and which substances a player can not take

  • Libertymike||

    From a libertarian perspective, the right of the individual to engage in free enterprise activities trumps the associational rights of the rent seeker.

    Only a statist would insist upon the proposition that everybody's property must be confiscated so that the rules of a rent seeker can be enforced, no matter how anti-free enterprise the rules may be.

  • Libertymike||

    MLB, NFL, NCAA: Give us more subsidies and do not hesitate to enforce are anti-free enterprise rulezzzzzzzzz.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    The circus isn't going to build itself.

    That said kudos to Rahm Emanuel(yes that one) for not caving into the Cubs. Let them build their own upgrades.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I visited Wrigley this weekend. While it did seem small (despite having more seats than Fenway, apparently), it didn't seem like a dump at all. Doesn't look like it needs to be updated at all.

  • CE||

    Fenway and Wrigley are both antiques, and ought to be replaced with modern ballparks that are designed to _look_ like antiques, but with modern amenities.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I liked Wrigley a lot more than Fenway, though to be fair I had better seats than I usually get at Fenway.

    I did think Comerica was by far the best of the 3 I've been to.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    I guess I just like the amenities of US Cellular better. The field itself is fine. It's the surrounding infrastructure which is 99 years old. To each their own.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    As much as I love sports, taxpayers shouldn't be paying for my hobby.

  • Libertymike||

    Nor for enforcement of their anti-free enterprise rules, particularly if they cite phony "freedom of association" as a basis.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Ah yes, nothing more free enterprise than anti trust laws and forcing people to associate with other people.

  • Libertymike||

    Ah yes, nothing more free enterprise than stealing taxpayers' money so that crony capitalists can have their anti-free enterprise rules enforced.

    In order for there to be enforceable rules of freedom of association, the association can not consist of rent seeking scum. But, perhaps enforcing the rules of rent seeking scum is your conception of libertarianism.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    You are providing a good counter argument to the libertarian position that there should not be public schooling.

    Learn to read, and learn logic, and you'll realize how dumb your argument is in the context where I've already said that taxpayers shouldn't be paying for this.

  • Libertymike||

    Notwithstanding AD's assertion to the contrary, I am not supporting the proposition that one must be force to associate with another.

    What I am supporting is that no rent seeking, subsidized cartel has a basis to cry "freedom of association" when one of its employees takes a banned substance or undertakes economic activity upon which the cartel frowns.

  • Cytotoxic||

    In other worse, two wrongs make a right in your demented view of 'liberty'.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    So... you're saying they should be forced to associate with that employee?

  • NeonCat||

    I drove in Atlanta this past weekend. As I bounced out of a particularly large pothole, I thought of how well the $200 million Mayor Reed swears is all the city is going to spend on the new unnecessary stadium could be spent filling in potholes and the like. But I guess politicians and the wealthy can't schmooze around a repaired road like they can a shiny new skybox.

  • bassjoe||

    It has nothing to do with the local economy. It has EVERYTHING to do with local pride. The owners of these franchises threaten to leave the city if they don't get a heavily-subsidized stadium whose overpriced tickets and concessions will line the pockets of the owners and spoiled brats that play the games.

    It's easy to rile up the populace with "Your beloved [insert team here] is going to leave because Mayor So-and-So is refusing to help them stay". God forbid...

  • Gorilla tactics||

    Yeah I hear that shit all the time too. Sports teams are becoming some of the biggest welfare queens around with these budget busting stadiums. Honeslt, let them leave.

  • OneOut||

    Overpriced perhaps in MLB but not so much in the NFL where most stadiums are sold out ( practically speaking" for every game.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    Im from montreal,

    we have the proud olympic stadium that was built in 1976 and was completely paid off by the taxpayer in 2006. Yes you read that right, 30 years to pay off the fucking debt. And it is now falling apart. What did montreal learn? nothing. We now want to build trams in the city. Sometimes the human race discourages me so much.

  • bassjoe||

    Many consumer mortgages are 30 years. The repayment period isn't the bothersome part. Also, it's tough to compare Olympics venues to a new arena for your sports team that's been around for decades.

    The problem, to me, is not forcing the over-rich owners of these sports teams -- who have access to gazillions in private financing at favorable terms -- to finance the damned things themselves.

  • mnwebdesign||

    Well! Just a clear example of transfers from the poor and middle income groups to the upper income group. Bastiat was right when he said that the state is a means for everyone to try and live off the income of everyone else...thanks for nice share!

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