Build it, and They Will Leave

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Colby Cosh writes about the latest case of taxpayer stadium financing gone horribly wrong. The Edmonton Trappers, a Triple-A baseball team, are being sold to Texas, at a 130 percent profit in just two years of ownership, even though "there are 15 years left on their lease at Telus Field, the beautiful state-of-the-art ballpark we taxpayers built for the team in 1995." How can the team get out of a 15-year contract? "The answer, apparently, is that the city is simply not going to enforce the lease." Why won't the city enforce the lease? Because it doesn't want any financial harm to come to the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos, which for the last two years have shared the same owner as the Trappers. More evidence of the point, long detailed in Reason, that public money and sports stadiums have no business going together, and create a market of ever-greater fools willing to inflate a multi-billion-dollar bubble. As Nick Gillespie wrote way back in February 1996:

There is indeed insanity here, as well as tyranny, extortion, and greed. But the cause for concern has precious little to do with free markets and football–it has to do with politicians throwing low-percentage bombs with the taxpayers' money.

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  1. I’m sure this point has been made many, many times, but I’ll reiterate. First, our tax money is stolen to build these stadiums, and then they charge us $100 for a shitty seat and $8 for a fucking beer?

    Those prohibitionist “Crazy World” anti-smoking commercials should do a piece on this. Welcome to Crazy World.

  2. Mr Nice Guy-
    Its difficult as hell to be a Seattle Seahawks fan. Paul Allen and Seattle ran the stadium down our throats. So while taxpayers will flipping a good portion of the bill, the Seahawks played at Husky Stadium (U of Wash) which seats nearly 20,000 more people than the old Kingdome, played outdoors, and the campus and stadium are dry, no alcohol. When only 55,000 people would showed up for the game (considered a sell out at Kingdome), it wasn’t a sold out game and therefore the NFL blacked out the games on TV in the local market.

    So Seattle slapped us in the face, and the NFL kicked us in the balls. Meanwhile, we are paying.

  3. I imagine there’s a ‘political whore’ box seat for the pols that approved it, for life…. Heh, spending other peoples money is fun!

  4. Just another sign that Americans have to kick their sports addiction. I did back in the 80s, and it turned out much easier than kicking either nicotine or caffeine habits.

    When you are finally free of sports “loyalties” – professional and college – and no longer buy into the bullshit about the “drama of human competition”, you realize what a fool you were all along, slavishly following the antics of multimillionaires on the field and in the front office who only give a damn about the thickness of your wallet.

  5. I agree totally Tom (except when it comes to the University of Texas).

    Hook ’em!

  6. Patriot,

    I once so thoroughly hated the University of Texas that if I came across any cars in parking lots with Longhorn stickers or such, I would “key” them.

    How mucy more assholey can you get?

    Thankfully, I saw the light before someone beat the shit out of me.

  7. I never quite understood why people get so worked up about grown men (usually staggeringly well-paid) playing freaking ball games.

  8. Gambling.

  9. I have always wondered why a city did not demand a share of ownership of a team before they signed a stadium deal. Of course, the political box refered to earlier and the campaign contributions make a difference.

  10. Any good gambler tries to pick winners instead of betting on sentimentality.

  11. If sentiments are involved, bet on the spread.

  12. If you want a good Sports Pork project, have your city bid on the Winter Olympics.

    The Winter Olympics generated enough money so that we Utah taxpayers got our money back.

    But federal taxpayers got stuck with bills for our freeways & our light rail. And we Utahns don’t pay much federal income tax thanks to deductions for our kids. Ha, ha; suckers! We’ve got your money.

    And the Dutch, Austrians & Germans set up beer gardens here during the games! Yummy!!

  13. “I never quite understood why people get so worked up about grown men (usually staggeringly well-paid) playing freaking ball games.”

    The reason you don’t understand it is because your soul is dead. Too bad for you.

  14. John, what other gardens did the dutch setup? I bet the olympics generated plenty of money with all them snowboarders!

  15. Another good reason to be a Redskins fan.

  16. >>The reason you don’t understand it is because your soul is dead. Too bad for you.

  17. “not exhaulting over some *other* genuine acheivement of a human being with a brain and something to contribute to the advancement of humanity — not understanding the appeal of that, to me, would be a better indicator of deadness of soul.”

    Unfortunatly your soul deadening cynicism toward other people causes you to insert the word “other” where it doesn’t belong. If it didn’t, we would be in complete agreement, and you would also understand what Mr. Anonymous has failed to. Too bad for you.

  18. “Sports? Today’s opiate of the people.”

    Being both a fan and a nonfan myself, I enjoy hysterics from both sides of the issue. But whatever you might rightly say against spectator sports, they are certainly NOT a uniquely modern phenomenon!

  19. Perhaps Edmonton made a very bad business deal, but that doesn’t mean its never a good idea to spend money on sports stadiums. Check out what has happened to downtown St. Paul MN since it built the XCel center for the wild. Downtown was dead a few years ago, now it is hopping with lots of new restaurants and bars.
    Like anything, the city has to be smart about such deals.

  20. In other news, they’re going to turn Maple Leaf Gardens into a fucking GROCERY STORE. The most beautiful stadium in hockey, a grocery store? I am miffed.

  21. Steven Crane,

    Maybe it’ll become the most beautiful grocery store in…well, whatever grocery stores are in!

  22. Let’s not replace sports with ballet or opera or any of that stuff. It’ll just give us more crap like the Three Tenors.

  23. I never understand why people get so worked up over atheletes’ salaries but don’t seem to be at all bothered by the vast sums made by actors. What’s the difference, really?

  24. >>Just another sign that Americans have to kick their sports addiction. I did back in the 80s, and it turned out much easier than kicking either nicotine or caffeine habits.

    Or Canadians, but what’s the difference, really?

  25. Tom from Texas: The Edmonton Trappers are a Canadian team. Other than that, your point is well taken.

  26. Ken Shultz wrote:
    “Another good reason to be a Redskins fan.”

    We didn’t get off scot-free with that one either. There was still a giant interchange from the Capital Beltway that was built and is now ONLY used during events at JKC Stadium (now FedEx Field), along with various other tax breaks and handouts. But it’s still a lot better than the Stupid Tax (lottery) funded Ravens Stadium, where the state of MD and city of Baltimore are still giving away the farm, with examples like 1 dollar rent for training facilities, giving public parkland for new training facilities, giving the naming rights (and revenues) for the stadium to the team, and then entertaining complaints from Peter Angelos about how he wants the same deal the Ravens get for the Orioles. And don’t forget everyone’s favorite, the Personal Seat License. “You have to buy the seat to get the privilege of purchasing tickets for the games!”

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