…And Last in the American League

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The return of big-league ball to Washington, D.C. may be a boon to Heine Manush fans everywhere.

But it's also a massive ripoff for everyone else. And that's even before the newborn team hits the field and starts sucking (as they almost certainly will). One promising sign: The still-to-be-finalized deal between the team and the city is already being attacked as the corporate welfare that it is. Reader Neil Hrab points to this piece in Counterpunch:

How a couple dozen of the richest men in the United States got one of the most impoverished cities in the Western Hemisphere to give them $440 million, is already being called the "swindle of the century." It's the biggest heist since the Monorail came to Springfield on 'The Simpsons'. Just to compare, the St. Louis Cardinals' franchise is paying 77 percent of a $387 million stadium now under construction. The Detroit Tigers are paying for 62 percent of their $327 million stadium. In DC, the city picks up every penny.

Whole thing here.

Here's a compendium of old Reason pieces about stadium subsidy shams. These pieces date back to the late '90s, but sadly, the arguments made therein continue to apply.

NEXT: 150,000 Strong

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  1. Isnt stadium building on rolls of taxpayers of Arlington, TX how George W made his millions as a “private-sector” business man?

  2. Yup. The Rangers’ ownership brought him in, allowing him to “buy” his ownership share on credit, as they were working to get the State of Texas to fund a stadium project. Then, once it was built, the value of the team went through the roof, and Bush sold his share for millions.

  3. …and he did it with the old Senators, no less.

    I just want to call the DC team the Bullets.

  4. The sad thing is that DC will generate 8,000 fans where NOVA will generate 16,000 fans! NOVA got the short end of the stick! Also when the EXPO team is auction a person from the West Coast will most likely buy the team. So much for local ownership. DC government just as smart as they were with Mayor Berry.

  5. One more reason to get out of DC.

  6. DC sports fans have such a sense of being entitled to having championship teams that I suspect this franchise will be in trouble 4 or 5 years out if the team isn’t competitive.

    The Redskins have always had sellouts even during bad years for as long as I can remember, but they only play a handful of games at home. In baseball you get a lot more chances to see your team in action at home, and I think that DC fans just aren’t inclined to support a mediocre team, in the same way they didn’t support the crappy old Senators back in the day.

    Then again, I don’t know piss about sports.

  7. Bullets? We could probably get away with callin’ ’em “The Spooks”!
    not Daniel (but close!)

  8. minor point: someone needs to turn down the hyperbole a few notches…

    “one of the most impoversihed cities in the Western Hemisphere”???

    give me an f*ing break. DC ain’t exactly Mountain View CA… but it ain’t Sao Paolo, Rio, Mexico City, Gonaives Haiti, Port-Au-Prince Haiti, Any other city in Haiti, the Dominican, Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Jamaica….

    still think that any subsidy to anyone for any reason is BS.. but you gotta be careful and wash thoroughly with antiseptic before and after dealing with couterpunch (commie bastards)

  9. ..one of the most impoverished cities in the Western Hemisphere

    Jesus Christ on a crutch, since when does corruption, mismanagement and graft equal impoverished? DC’s has one of (if not the) highest tax rates in the country and sucks federal dollars like a Hilton Sister in front of a camera.

    Calling DC “impoverished” is like calling your college kid who blows all of the money daddy gave him for tuition money on beer and pot “poor.”

  10. Remember the Astrodome, the “Eighth Wonder of the World”? Newer stadiums with retractable roofs and larger seating have obsoleted it. Though it was built for $33 million, the taxpayers of Harris County, Texas, owe more than $50 million on it. It is vacant and the only event likely to be held in it anymore will be the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

    What is to be done with it? Some businessmen have a redevelopment plan. They might turn it into a theme park even though it’s next door to Six Flags’s Astroworld park. Or, they might make a hotel out of it even though the city just built a hotel downtown next to the convention center. It is uncertain what eventually will be done with the Astrodome but it is altogether certain that whoever does it will want to stick the taxpayers for it. Thus a $50 million white elephant will become a $250 million white elephant and the county taxes go up again.

  11. Well, DC did get a little spoiled when Jack Kent Cooke built his stadium out in Landover, with his own money, well, for the stadium at least. The state of Maryland threw in something between 80 million and 150 million for roadway upgrades, including a part-time interchange on the beltway. But afaik, DC didn’t pay anything for any of it. I don’t really know how much DC paid for the MCI Center, but then I can’t understand why anyone would pay NBA prices for season tickets, especially to go see the Bullets, er, Wizards.

  12. I don’t really know how much DC paid for the MCI Center…

    Like JKC and FedEx field, Abe Poland built the MCI Center with his own cash. I’m sure the city threw in some tax breaks / infrastructure costs, but for all intents and purposes Abe did it himself.

    The problem with the Ex-Expos is that baseball refused to sell to anyone who would build their own stadium. Basically, they wanted to maximize the price of the team, thus their cut. They way they see it money put into a stadium is money taken out of the owner’s pockets.

  13. Call them the Nationals, after the famous airport.

  14. “DC sports fans have such a sense of being entitled to having championship teams”

    When was the last time a DC sports team won anything?

  15. Lots of good info here:

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/

    “Next time, try Separation of Sport and State” 🙂

  16. Yes, and it’s not just the big guys either, Lake Elsinore Ca built a beautiful stadium for it’s minor league team. The 10 million dollar stadium ended up costing 23 million and doesn’t generate enough revenue to even pay the interest on the bonds, thus leaving this city with the highest per capita bonded indebtedness of any city in Ca. At least they still have a team though.

  17. Hey, yes, technically you’re right, but I’ve driven out New York Ave (Hwy 50) in DC and, while it may not be Port au Prince, it makes the worst slums of LA look positively upscale.

  18. “DC sports fans have such a sense of being entitled to having championship teams”

    When was the last time a DC sports team won anything?

    Maryland won the NCAA basketball championship a few years ago.

    Well, DC started to think of the Terps as their own once the winning started.

  19. Hey, yes, technically you’re right, but I’ve driven out New York Ave (Hwy 50) in DC and, while it may not be Port au Prince, it makes the worst slums of LA look positively upscale.

    *cough cough* bullshit! You must have driven out quite a long time ago, because the Rt. 50 / NY Ave corridor isn’t all that bad, at least now it isn’t (I drive it all of the time out to 95). I live right off of Florida and North Cap (about 3 blocks from NY Ave) and I’m a white dude who walks his 5 month old around the neighborhood all the time. Its a great area.

    DC still has pockets of craptacular neighborhoods (parts of Ward 8 come to mind, Trinidad, etc) and grit (and gentrification is even pushing its way into those areas), but “makes the worst part of LA look good” is just bull.

  20. Nathan,

    It’s been a long time, but I remember the neighborhoods in Northeast along Rt 50 being abysmal. Street after streets of collapsing stone and brick row houses, some of them clearly beautiful buildings that were abandoned. Has there been a wave of renovation since the mid-90s in Northeast?

  21. Clearly the new baseball team should be named for Ronald Reagan. 😉

  22. Clearly the new baseball team should be named for Ronald Reagan.

    How about the Gippers?

  23. Nathan,

    It’s been a long time, but I remember the neighborhoods in Northeast along Rt 50 being abysmal. Street after streets of collapsing stone and brick row houses, some of them clearly beautiful buildings that were abandoned. Has there been a wave of renovation since the mid-90s in Northeast?

    Yes, in general, and its pushing ever east. However, 50/NYA doesn’t run through too many residential areas in NE (it splitting into a divided highway and all), so I’m not sure exactly which “craphole” is in question.

    Development is sweeping east at a really rapid rate. When we bought last year we were on the cusp of it all (some people still think we live in the ghetto) U St / Florida Ave around my neighborhood was basically blight up until a few years ago. Now, according to my neighbor (who buys and refirbs old buildings) you would be lucky to buy an old Victorian shell for less than $400K. (Condos are going for half a mil) Everything’s pushed into NE from both the west and from the south (from the Capital Hill area).

    Considering less than 10 years ago Logan’s Circle and all points east were considered dangerous it amazing how much has changed.

  24. Nathan,

    I could well be thinking of areas that are west of North Capitol. As I said, it was a long time ago.

    But that’s great news! To what do you attribute this surge of development?

  25. But that’s great news! To what do you attribute this surge of development?

    The Snarky answer: getting rid of Marion Barry.

    Granted, this ‘prolly doesn’t explain it all, but he really ran a corrupt gov’t (the legacy of which is still felt today). City services went to crap. DC took a huge hit after the riots in the 60s and it took a while to recover. Having Barry in power during that period just made a bad situation worse. My guess is had someone other than Barry been mayor you would have seen DC go through this transformation 10 years ago.

    DC still has a long way to go: for instance the school system is still AWFUL (plug whore: dcedublog.blogspot.com), city services leave something to be desired and graft and mismanagement plague city gov’t, but at least they’re heading in the right direction.

  26. Having Barry in power during that period just made a bad situation worse.

    That’s a bit vague. What I meant to say was having Barry in power during the 80/90s when recovery should have been happening made a bad situation (i.e. the lingering effects of the Riots) worse (flight out of the city due to high taxes, high crime, high mayor).

  27. “But that’s great news! To what do you attribute this surge of development?”

    In a few years some booster will credit the new ball club and nobody will bother to check the chronology. The myth will continue unchecked.

    Speaking of myths, to his credit, the “Counterpunch” writer doesn’t spout the usual lefty cant that the city fathers should pour the half bill (that they don’t have) into the school system (already the highest per student spending in the country).

  28. For an example of a privately funded stadium that’s been a huge business, aesthetic and sports success, see Pac Bell Park (now SBC Park, I guess) in San Francisco:

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2004/05/14_gordonj_sanfranpark/

    As that story points out, the Giants do receive some subsidies, so it’s not 100% accurate to call it privately funded, but it’s the closest thing I’ve seen.

  29. Steve,

    The NE Patriots played chicken with the Massachusetts legislature, threatening to move the team, and lost.

    Gillette Stadium cost Robert Kraft about $360 million, and the infrastructure work cost the taxpayers about $10 million. No ongoing subsidies, actual payments for services to the town and, I believe, the state.

  30. About the Astrodome – one proposed tenant is a MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes (relocated) or an expansion team.

    Of course there would have to be massive renovations like removing the plastic grass and putting the almost ok rubber/plastic stuff in, or even taking the roof off and putting in natural.

    The city of Houston is actually quite serious about this.

  31. The St. Louis Cardinals also tried to bluff the MO legislature by threatening to move the team across the river into Illinois, among other places. Luckily it appears no one believed for a second that the Cardinals would really be stupid enough to leave St. Louis (it probably didn’t help that Illinois was in a HUGE budget crisis when this issue was coming up). Once their bluff was called, they agreed to pay for most of the new stadium (I think local govts might have picked up most of the rest of the bill), which is being built on a site adjacent to and partially overlapping the old stadium site.

    I still think it’s silly they’re building a new stadium. I’m a huge Cardinals fan and I love Busch Stadium, which is less than 40 years old, has plenty of capacity for them (including some recently added luxury boxes that are all the rage these days), doesn’t have pieces falling off a la Wrigley, and looks great. But at least they weren’t able to add insult to injury by having the state pick up most of the tab.

  32. Pac Bell Stadium is far, far, far and away the nicest sports facility that I’ve ever entered. A total must for anyone who has ever enjoyed any sort of spectator sport.

    So encouraging to hear it was privately funded!

  33. “When was the last time a DC sports team won anything?”

    I didn’t say they were champions, I’m talking about the attitude DC sports fan have. I lived there for years. Let’s just say that if the Cubs or the Red Sox had been in DC they wouldn’t be there anymore.

  34. is now called SBC – great park – almost as nice as fenway…

    Same with Foxboro Stadium.

    Sankees Yuck

  35. DC’s relocated baseball squad should be called The Washington Parasites. A logo featuring a leech attached to a barrel-clad Joe Taxpayer would serve nicely.

    Kevin

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