Let Them Pay!


The city council of Washington, D.C. has delivered a long-overdue brushback pitch to Major League Baseball and its newly arrived Expos-cum-Nationals, by requiring the billionaires to pony up half the financing for a new stadium themselves. Though half is still half too much (see the cities of Nashville and San Francisco for a better idea), it's hundreds of millions more than welfare queen Bud Selig was expecting, and could avert a little-needed local tax on large businesses. (Links via Baseball Primer.)

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  1. The Nats should play ball in Northern Virginia!

  2. Something for the DC delegation to throw back in the faces of Congressmen who want to lecture them on fiscal responsibility?

  3. It’s a beautiful day for those of us living in D.C. (and there ain’t many) who truly support free markets. Listening to the visceral anger from the local press–especially the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell, who should be forced to beg on the street for change for the rest of his natural life–I can only sit back and smile.

  4. Dat’s right.

    We Baltimorons (in spirit) shelled out bigtime for our billionaire’s stadia (using money from Montgomery County taxpayers), and can’t stand the thought of DC moving in on our action.

    Glad to see it all come a Cropper.

  5. The local NPR outlet today carried a story about a proposed sales tax to keep our beloved sports teams in Kansas City. This comes just over a month after citizens rejected a similar tax in the general election.
    The teams are making threatening noises about leaving town unless their perfectly adequate stadiums are refurbished at taxpayer expense. No news outlet-not one- has questioned the presumption that the role of local government emcompasses expropriating money from citizens and redirecting it to private corporations(sports teams).
    Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Kansas City, in the course of attempting to remake its downtown, is working on becoming the eminent domain abuse capital of the US. The local media has, with few exceptions, acted as a cheering section for the city’s plans.

  6. No OPUS. I’m trying to get into George Mason and I’d rather not live next to any more welfare queens, thank you.

    What I want to know is if this was done out of principle or if the city has at last spent itself into a corner and has to make cuts.

  7. Go Skip Oliva! As to Boswell’s frankly sexist speculation that Cropp may not have realized what she was doing and is basically “out of her league,” who won, Tommy Baby? Who won?

  8. Half IS still too much, but I still have to admire the city council of DC for at least being somewhat reasonable. Cheers to them, I only wish the asshats on my council here in Charlotte had shown the same level of respect for the taxpayer. Voting against building a new arena for George Shinn and the Hornets when they were here seemed to get rid of one billionaire bloodsucker, but voting down a new arena for BET’s Bob Johnson and his BOBcats didn’t stop the council from going ahead and building it anyway. I’m absolutely fed up with it.

  9. The biggest argument the pro-stadium folks are offering is that if we don’t take it in the a-hole for billionaire baseball, then MLB will simply go to a city that is more accommodating.. pretty fucking weak.

    I’ve said this a couple times before, but the people blocking this deal aren’t for “saving” public money. They simply want to direct it to their own social/civil engineering schemes. Frustrating.

  10. We subsidize the teams. We should get to vote on the starting lineup before every game…

  11. I may be off on the exact amounts but I think I have the ratio right:

    Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, holder of two world championships from the last three years and a 12 – 1 record so far this year, paid somewhere around $300-$400M to build a brand new and lovely, state-of-the-art stadium in Foxboro, MA. The State of MA spent $100k+ on “infrastructure” improvements to the roads and such surrounding the stadium. Btw, the championships came AFTER the new stadium, not before.

    If they can find a way to do this and be successful in football then the smartypants in baseball ought to be able to too. Unless getting the people to fund it is part of their smartypants plan. . .

  12. Is all of this Bush’s fault for the deal he got from Houston for the new Astros stadium? Or does this sort of public financing for major sports facilities that cater to professional teams (as opposed to public parks, a college stadium, etc.)precede Bush’s efforts?

  13. If you want to watch baseball in D.C., why not just drive, etc., to Baltimore?

  14. Um, Bush was part owner of the Rangers which play in a suburb of Dallas. And I think there were plenty of sweetheart deals before his.

  15. GG — If you’re referring to the deal when Bush owned a major league team, that was Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers, which passed (I believe) a sales tax package in (I believe) 1991, helping greatly to give Dubya a $15 million return on something like a $600,000 short-term investment.

    And though the 1990s was the boom decade for public financing of stadiums, I think the concept really took hold in the 1980s when NFL owner Al Davis tried to sucker every third-rate town in California (even Irwindale!) to build a nice home for his Raiders. The key is making the town believe that it will never have a professional sports franchise again, which is why these queens prey on second-tier burghs like Portland, Charlotte & the District of Columbia.

    And, obviously, sports teams are just one type of business that pulls this trick. There’s a decent James Surowiecki column on the subject in a recent New Yorker.

  16. Rob,

    Wrong team obviously, but that doesn’t detract from the merit of my question.

  17. “If you want to watch baseball in D.C., why not just drive, etc., to Baltimore?”

    Danger! Danger Will Robinson!

    That’s like asking a Mets fan from the Bronx why he doesn’t just go the ballpark down the street when he wants to ask a game.

  18. I R a Inglush majoor.

  19. The horrid practice goes at least as far back as the move that brought the AFL Dallas Texans to Kansas City, where they took the name “Chiefs.” Said name was actually in honor of the nickname of the KC poobah (mayor?) who greased the axles of the moving trucks with taxpayer money.

    Now how about an honor roll of owners who spent their own god damn money to build their ballparks?

    Jack Kent Cooke (Redskins)
    Abe Pollin (Wizards/Capitals)
    Robert Kraft (Patriots)

    Daniel Snyder, god help us, has paid for numerous additions to Fedex Field since taking the team. This generally involves building ever more seats with ever worse views. The idea seems to be that you spend money on the seats, but then people buy tickets, so you get more back than you spent in the first place. It’s a weird concept, but a hard one to see the flaw in . . .

    Any others?

  20. Jim Henley,

    Yeah, Lincoln Financial Field was unfortunately built with public funds (about 1/3rd of the funding for the project as I recall).

  21. Now how about an honor roll of owners who spent their own god damn money to build their ballparks?

    Peter McGowan – PacBell/SBC Park

    And if you want to go back a little further

    The Owners of the Federal League Chicago Whales -Wrigley Field
    The O’Malley Family – Dodger Stadium

  22. Paul Allen – Rose Garden (NBA Blazers) [though with some public funding for public parking garages]

    Isn’t Lambau (sorry ’bout the spelling) Field owned by its shareholder citizens of Green Bay?

    Did Allen’s new Seahawks Stadium get public money?

  23. “We subsidize the teams. We should get to vote on the starting lineup before every game…”

    Hell, why stop there? We should have a say in contract negotiations, player salaries, draft picks, mascots, etc.. 😉

  24. Others who have built almost entirely with their own money (to the best of my knowledge):
    Lamar Hunt (owner of Chiefs) – Columbus Crew Stadium & FC Dallas stadium (under construction in Frisco, TX)

    Phillip Anschutz – Home Depot Center (for LA Galaxy, an Olympic Training Center, ATP wonderland, cycling, etc., and CD Chivas USA for next year) & new Chicago Fire stadium (in Bridgeview, ground broken recently).

    Insert irrationally derisive comments about soccer below.

  25. Soccer sucks! What’s up with all the 0-0 games?

  26. If you want to watch baseball in D.C., why not just drive, etc., to Baltimore?

    I rarely drive to Baltimore to catch ballgames, because a) I don’t much care for the Orioles, b) Peter Angelos is a dickhead and isn’t entitled to any of my money, and c) the drive is utterly atrocious, particularly on weeknights.

    Last summer, I did buy tix to a game when the Indians were in town. My wife and I left from my office in Arlington — roughly 40 miles from downtown Bawlmer — at around 5:30pm for a 7:05 start. We arrived in our seats midway through the fourth inning. This sort of delay is more frequent than it is unusual. Why spend that kind of money for half a game?

  27. Another owner who privately built a stadium:

    Bill Wirtz, owner of the Blackhawks, built the United Center with the Chicago Bulls.

    Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the largest share of the Bulls, doesn’t count since he got the state of Illinois to build him a horrible, white elephant ballpark.

  28. “Expos-cum-Nationals”

    He said cum. Hehe.

  29. I didn’t say “irrationally derisive assholish comments”…

  30. “Soccer sucks! What’s up with all the 0-0 games?”

    Don’t they have some kind of sudden-death guy-kicks-at-the-goal thing because of this? Doesn’t this show how absolutely queer this game is? A bunch of skinny, hairy, fruit-flies kick a ball around for three hours, and then they have to settle it with sudden-death. Why not have the dual at the beginning, and not waste everyone’s time?

    The real excitement is in the stands. I guess there are so many riots because the game is so fucking boring.

  31. James B. — The O’Malley family may have paid to construct Dodger Stadium, but the gorgeous & expansive plot of land was created by a particularly brutish round of Eminent Domain on hundreds of lower-class Mexican families. There’s a terrific photographic book about this, called “Chavez Ravine, 1949,” or thereabouts.

  32. Matt beat me to it, but I’d like to add that the MLB owners at the time would have blocked the move of the Dodgers had they not also locked up a municipal stadium in SF for the Giants.

    And if I could plug a book that has some interesting stories about building sports facilities, Bill Veeck’s “30 Tons A Day” is pretty darned good. Perfectly explains why the Patriots play in Foxboro, and I’ll give you a hint, it has something to do with corporate welfare.

  33. I’m trying to get into George Mason and I’d rather not live next to any more welfare queens, thank you. – Eryk B.

    GMU is a public university, so that’s going to be very hard to do. You’ll have to live way off-campus. 🙂

    Lambeau Field, formerly “City Stadium” is owned by the City of Green Bay and Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District. The Pack, itself, is a stockholder-owned corporation. The recent $295 million renovation of the team’s stadium was paid for, in large part, by a 0.5% sales and use tax collected in Brown County. $174 million in District bonds were sold which will be paid off by the stadium tax.

    Besides the sales tax, the stadium renovation is being paid for through a one-time user fee on Green Bay and Milwaukee season-ticket holders; a loan from the National Football League; and the proceeds of a Packers’ stock sale.


    DC-area baseball fans should be wary of the proportions of a public-private partnership in funding a new home for the Expos/Nats.* As the building of Milwaukee’s Miller Park has shown, baseball accounting can be very slippery, and the “half” to be provide by the team can shrink over time.


    *We should, at least temporarily, rename this franchise The Nomads, or something.

  34. Mr. Nice Guy,


    Nice troll, though.

  35. As a Brooklyn native, I was raised to curse the O’Malley name, but as one can learn from Neil Sullivan’s The Dodgers Move West* such anger would have been more justly directed at Evil Urban Planner Robert Moses, who thwarted WO’M’s every effort to replace Ebbets Field with a modern facility.

    Gov’t meddling nudged the Dodgers to leave Brooklyn. Corporate welfare drew an NL franchise to L.A.


    * http://tinyurl.com/5kq83 or


  36. Now how about an honor roll of owners who spent their own god damn money to build their ballparks?

    I should have piped up earlier about the late Jane Bradley Petit. She had been married to former Chicago Blackhawks radio announcer Lloyd Petit, and was the heiress to the Bradley half of Allen-Bradley. The couple owned the IHL (now AHL) Milwaukee Admirals hockey team. After A-B was sold to Rockwell, Jane came into a ton of cash. She donated – DONATED – the funds to build the Bradley Center, which houses the Ads, NBA Milwaukee Bucks, and my Marquette U. Warriors. Unfortunately, they did this a little too late to snag an NHL franchise before expansion fees escalated to uneconomic levels. It is said that that bastard Wirtz in FIB-land wanted territorial compensation if MKE came into the league, or the Petits would have bought the St. Louis Blues. But I digress. The BC, opened in 1988, is now one of the NBA’s older arenas, if you can believe it.


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