Corporate Welfare

If You Wonder Why Your Local Government is Dead Broke, Check Out This Story About Publicly Funded Stadiums


The greater Cincinnati area is in the shitter. It's had a weak economy for decades and it's in a state and part of the country that isn't lighting the world on fire. And the local big-wigs have piled on by spending over a billion dollars in recent memory on stadiums for the Reds and Bengals that have done nothing to help the local economy (though the stadiums did soak up huge amounts of finance money and acres of prime river-adjacent real estate).

Here's an update on the mental retardation at work:

Wednesday is the proclaimed deadline for the Reds and Bengals to say whether they would help cover the county's more than $1 billion cost of building their stadiums.

Not only are there no agreements in place, a lawyer for the Bengals said the team and the county haven't talked about possible concessions—which all three Hamilton County Commissioners say are a vital part of the plan to plug a deficit projected to top $700 million by 2032—in 10 months.

The Bengals sent a letter to the county in October offering $40 million in concessions but asked for a change in the lease that could possibly allow the team to leave in 2017. A Bengals lawyer said Tuesday the team has never gotten a response to the letter.

"There is nothing new or different since then," said Stuart Dornette.

Dornette added the team had thought the county wanted to move quickly.

"We tried to respond to that in a timely fashion and the line went dead," he said. "I think we gave up waiting."

County Administrator Patrick Thompson said Monday negotiations with both teams about concessions have been going on for months. He refused to say what—if anything—the teams have offered to help offset the deficit.

More here.

This sort of story is mind boggling. A billion bucks to create Xanadus for wealthy team owners? Then not following up on (an incredibly cheapskate) $40 million buyback (with an escape clause in it, because by 2017 the Bengals are really gonna want to move to Louisville if they don't get a brand-new stadium in which to suck)?

If you ever wonder why your local area is broke down and busted, it's probably because you have people running things who are every bit as stoopid as the folks glimpsed in the story above.

And for the record, having a professional sports franchise in your area is a net drag on your local economy, to the tune of about $40 per person in terms of local GDP. Watch and learn:

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  1. According to Wikipedia, Paul Brown Stadium cost $455 million to construct. I’m thinking of writing the Cincinnati mayor and telling him I’ll move to Cincy if he’ll buy me a $445,000 house. I’ll give up my legal career to open up a craft brewery which will make Cincinnati a tourist destination for beer geeks. Then after a few years, I’ll think about maybe throwing $40k his way. Seems fair, right?

    1. That is a good idea. And it would actually have a positive effect on the economy. I guarantee you more people will come from outside the Cincinnati area to drink your beer than they will to see the Bungles.

      1. I’ll just have to make sure Cedric Benson stays out of my pub.

      2. Well, the Mrs. and I did go to Cincinnati in 2006 for the express purpose of seeing the Pats play the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. We also took in the University of Cincinnati Bearcats contest v. Miami of Ohio and we dined at Morton’s Steak House. We spent money on cabs and some other local eateries.

        John, I realize that there are not that many football fanatics who have a hobby of going to see different venues just for the sake of doing so. Believe me, it was just coincidental that the Pats were playing as we are more football fans than we are Pats fans just as we are more baseball fans than we are Red Sox fans.

        The Cincinnati fans were booing Corey Dillion. I heard many a fan exclaim, “you suck” and several variations on that theme. I finally had enough and told some of these fans that they were ignorant as Dillion is easily one of the best 10-12 running backs of all time. I then told one old geezer that the Bengals franchise is one of the longest standing laughingstocks in all of sport.

        1. “I finally had enough and told some of these fans that they were ignorant as Dillion is easily one of the best 10-12 running backs of all time.”

          That right there disqualifies you as a knowledgeable football fan. Top 10 or 12 of all time? Are you kidding?
          Here are 15 to get you started

          Jim Brown
          Barry Sanders
          Walter Payton
          Emmit Smith
          Marion Motley
          Marshall Faulk
          Eric Dickerson
          Marcus Allan
          Tony Dorsett
          Earl Cambell
          Thurman Thomas
          O.J Simpson
          Jerome Bettis
          Gayle Sayers
          Jim Taylor

          There is 15 guys and he is not easily anywhere near anyone in that group. He is not even in the top 15 in all time rushing despite playing in a offense heavy era. He also isn’t in the top 30 for single season rushing total and is a paltry 24th in career yards per game. His 4.3 ypc is not bad. But consider that forgettable players like Frank Gore and Tiki Barber were better. And it is nowhere near the gold standard of Jim Brown (5.2), Gayle Sayers and Barry Sanders (both 5.0).

          He is not even in the conversation of best 20 RBs of all time.

          1. I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that I recognize less than half the names on that list, or Corey Dillon’s for that matter. Football bores me.

            However, if you enjoy it, go for it. Just don’t ask me to help pay for the stadium.

          2. That’s a damn fine list you’ve got there, John. How did Jerome Bettis end up on it?

            I mean, sure, he’s better than Dillon, but he sticks out like a sore thumb on that list.

            1. He is shockingly high on the all time rushing list. He is like fifth or sixth. It pains me to admit it. But he had a really long productive career. And is better than I thought he was at the time.

              1. Curtis Martin, too. Way up on the all time list. Longevity alone is a good determination for a running back. Those small guys take a pounding. If they survive ten years in the league, that’s very good.

              2. Perhaps I should have said “arguably” among the best 10-12 all time.

                From your list, I would take Dillon over the Kansas Comet as well as Taylor. You forgot to mention the following about Dillon:

                1. He broke JIM BROWN’s rookie record for most yards gained in a single game in 1997. The record stood for 40 years and every person on your list failed to do what Dillon did in this regard.

                2. Dillon broke the single game rushing record formerly held by WALTER PAYTON in 2000. Yes, Adrian Peterson now has the record.

                3.Dillon is one of only 8 or 9 backs who have rushed for 1,100 yards or more in their first three seasons.

                4. He is one of only a handful of backs who have gained a 1,000 or more yards in each of their first six seasons. All of the backs on your list did not accomplish this feat.

                5. He was a differnce maker on a championship team. How many on your list fit that description? Not Thurman Thomas, not Dickerson and not Sanders, not Sayers and not Campbell.

                John, I know we have disagreed on some stuff, but please don’t ever accuse me of not knowing football.

                Having said all of that, I can’t call you batshit for your list. You can certainly make a good argument that all of the backs you cited are better than Dillon.

                1. I would also rather have Dillon than Earl Campbell. Sure, I would take Earl Campbell in his 1978 rookie season (remeber that Monday night game in November against the Dolphins when he went 80 yards and Howard Cossell almost had an apoplexy?) over just about anybody, but careeer wise, I would rather have had Dillon.

                  1. Actually, THE Earl Campbell highlight of his rookie year was running over, right square over, Pro Bowl LB Isiah Robertson of the [L.A.] Rams. Robertson later laid a hit on Campbell that put him out for the rest of that game.

        2. Not one of the 10 or 12 best RBs of all time, but he was pretty good. 17th all time in yardage and 16th in rushing TDs. I would rank him somewhere between 20 and 25 all time among RBs.

        3. The Cincinnati fans were booing Corey Dillion. I heard many a fan exclaim, “you suck” and several variations on that theme. I finally had enough and told some of these fans that they were ignorant as Dillion is easily one of the best 10-12 running backs of all time. I then told one old geezer that the Bengals franchise is one of the longest standing laughingstocks in all of sport.

          Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I get the vapors myself when football fans become so terribly unruly. To think they would criticize a star player. Why, I never heard of such a thing! And you really put that old fellow in his place with that stunningly bold proclamation, you did. Thank goodness we have Easterners like you to come to the ‘Nati.

    2. I like this idea. Louisville is small time though, we are throwing smaller amounts of money away on new basketball arena. Maybe I will ask for $200k.

      1. Once both our places are up and running, we’ll have to do a collaborative brew. Maybe a Tax Dollar Trippel?

        1. Sure.

          So are you not heading to Madtown in August?

          1. I would say if the baby (due July 25th) is born by August 1st, then yes. I’ve got tickets. It’s just a matter of making sure my wife doesn’t kill me for leaving her with a 4-year-old, a 1.5-year-old and a newborn while I go out and get drunk. However, as you might guess by the fact that it’s even an option, she’s generally very understanding about these sorts of things.

    3. And hold a beer convention/festival every year, that should bring more people in.

      I’d work for you, could be fun.

      1. Cincy already has beer and sweat, which is the largest homebrew contest/festival (by volume). Entrants are required to submit a Corny keg of their brew. After the judges taste it, it is open to festival attendees. Needless to say, winners get their kegs killed quick.

        Ive never attended, its almost always the same weekend as the KY State Fair homebrew contest, which also conflicts with Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison some years.

        Beer and Sweat is the next weekend this year.

        Great Taste 8/14
        KSF 8/15
        B&S 8/21

    4. CSM

      Sorry, it won’t work.

      You have to go for at least $100 million to get the attention of any City Council. Explain that it will create 50,000 jobs in 3 years and that taxes will go down.

      I suggest you present plans for a Twilight amusement park and explain how it will draw millions of Twilight fans to your city. (The irony of funding fictional blood-sucking vampires would probably be lost on them.)

      The bigger the numbers you throw out, the more they will buy into the idea.

  2. The Bengals and Reds got a BILLION!!?? sonofabitch!

    The city of Arlington only gave me 325 million. I had to shell out the other billion myself. sonofabitch.

    1. But it looks so, so cool. And when you go up to the fourth level, your ears pop!

      And Ole Miss won the first Cotton Bowl hosted there, which is also pretty cool…

  3. …it’s probably because you have people running things who are every bit as stoopid as…

    I thought the double o spelling was a hip hop thing with sexual connotations.

    1. That fits, we taxpayers get fucked.

  4. If you ever wonder why your local area is broke down and busted, it’s probably because you have people running things who are every bit as stoopid as the folks glimpsed in the story above.

    We do have such people, but luckily, our idiots are playing with smaller amounts of money.

  5. Why do cities keep getting talked into subsidies for billionaire jock-sniffers and their pets?

    Where’s Tony to explain how ALL government spending has a positive effect on the economy?

  6. wow that is downright scary when you think about it.


  7. This is why I can’t take Mitch Daniels seriously; he jumped in the middle of the Colts Stadium deal and helped push it over the finish line (so he could pat himself on the back, and tell everybody what great things he had done for the city of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana).

  8. Why do cities keep getting talked into subsidies for billionaire jock-sniffers and their pets?

    I blame

    (wait for it)

    the public schools.

    (Indianapolis, with one of the worst school systems, and highest dropout rates, in the nation, was busy spending MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS on high school athletic facilities in the early ‘aughts. They should have used the money for legal fees to decertify the teachers’ union.)

    1. Hmm. Decertifying the teacher’s union has potential (or even just spending the money to actually fire incompetent teachers.

      I can see the point in modest athletic facilities in a school as I think physical fitness helps kids learn, but don’t build palaces for the jock princes to rule the school. (If you must have sports teams, keep it strictly intramural. No city or county-wide inter-school leagues.) And definitely scrap the cheerleading squad, unless they are going to perform naked. ;}

  9. I remember when forty dollars could buy a plucky Jewish kid from Brooklyn an around-the-world with Sheila MacRae, if he let Jackie Gleason watch. Miami Beach was the real Hollywood in those days. Fisher’s boys wouldn’t have let anyone named “Eighty-Five” run around like he owned the town. What’s with that character, anyway? But times change. The world is a crazy ride, and I’m staying on.

    1. I hope you also tied an onion to your belt, which was the style at the time.

    2. Tell me about your awesome adventures with Sandy Koufax.

    3. I have no idea who’s doing these Larry King spoofs, but whomever it is, I hope they never stop. I got fucking tears running down my face.

  10. Nick,

    As a Louisvillian, I can safely say that WE DONT WANT THE FUCKING BUNGLES!

  11. Think of all the jobs for people who sweep up the stands after a Bengals game 10 times a year. Not to mention the high payingm upwaredly mobile beer and hot dog sellers careers.

    That reminds me, could Reason do an update on Joe Biden’s tracking of jobs created or saved by the stimulus. He must have ironed out the problems by now and have hard numbers to share with us.

    1. Why can’t you say something nice instead of being a smartass?

      1. J sub D and I will say something nice about politicians when they do something nice.

        Like commit seppuku.

    2. “Think of all the jobs for people who sweep up the stands after a Bengals game 10 times a year.”

      For me, thatt’s the kicker. The Vikings want a stadium and they believe they should get one because the Twins just did. But at least the Twins play 81 home games a year. The Vikings usually play 8. One billion dollars for 8 games per year. Total bullshit.

  12. But Nick, things like streets, sewers, schools and cops are so passe’. Our elected leaders need something more meaty to sink their fangs into, something that will have them sitting next to the movers and shakers. You ain’t getting that with a repave of Elm Street.

  13. You know, the Bengals were one of the better teams in the league until Paul Brown died. It really is too bad that that degenerate fuck Art Modell fired him and doomed the Browns to irrelevance.

    1. Would that be the degenerate fuck who has a Super Bowl ring, which is something the Browns still cannot say?

      1. Yes. And I hope that no one notices when you die.

        1. Warty….I’m surprised with you. TAO was only trying to make conversation in his own inimitable way.

    2. Paul Brown was just a so-so head coach after 1955, the year he won his last league championship. His refusal to change with the times stifled his Cleveland teams. Modell was right to fire him.

      As for the Bengals, they’ve gone deep into the playoffs only twice in their history. And they’ve never managed consecutive winning seasons in non-strike years. Paul Brown’s cheapskate ways made it hard to sustain success in the 1980’s. He was only a so-so GM as well.

  14. “Here’s an update on the mental retardation at work”

    Nick, this isn’t the type of phrasing you should be using if you want my money.

  15. This same insanity is currently in the works in my hometown of St. Pete, FL. The Rays had one good season and as a result, they are back to asking for a brand new stadium. They are of the opinion that they’ll make more money if they are provided with a new stadium (on prime real-estate, of course) across the bay in Tampa, with a minor financial contribution. This is in spite of the current under-contract stadium and a mid-life, multi-million dollar renovation, both of which are still being paid on. Tampa is already paying on THREE other stadiums (football, hockey and baseball). So they are less than receptive to more public spending. It’s just insane that these types of conversations are STILL taking place, in the midst of record deficits, using nothing but the same empty argument that the stadiums will ‘Bring jobs, etc.’. It’s also worth seeing how quickly a team can begin to do poorly (the Bucs team), and yet ticket prices/concessions/parking all stay sky-high.

    The St. Pete Times did a pretty underwhelming story on it, but the really enraging point is how MLB sees no lack of reality in a billionaire owner asking for more public money. And as one source in the paper said – all they have to do is keep asking until they find someone who says ‘Yes’.

    Oh and don’t forget the state also plans to build a high speed rail, without anyone acknowledging the falling tax revenue from tourism due to oil spills, recession, travel inconvenience, etc.

    1. Since you’re a local, what’s your opinion about the proposed HSR route? The few times I visited central FL, it seemed pretty car-dependent.

      1. Traffic would be fine if they stopped screwing it up so much to “improve” the traffic. As with every other state, any sort of public works project is a boondoggle here. Florida is a large state w/o any of the infrastructure that allows places like NY or Chicago to have usable rail lines. Any rail lines here are going to require people to have a second tier of transportation to get to their destination.
        Besides, there’s already a ton of roadway projects on the slate that were okayed in good times.

        1. Our light rail here in town shuts down if we get too much rain. Oh, yeah, that’s Houston, TX. Nope, never rains down here.

        2. Any rail lines here are going to require people to have a second tier of transportation to get to their destination.

          That was my impression from the bit of time I spent there, Orlando especially seemed very spread out.

          1. I’m a local on the Tampa side of the bay. Tolly is 100% correct; there is no way that the voters in Tampa will approve more money for a new home for the Rays. But if they wrap the stadium deal in with money for cops, firefighters, and schools, it has a chance. That’s how Bucs new stadium was shoved down our throats.

  16. So it cost $40 per person per year to have that stadium, those teams, and that attraction in place of the projects and empty lots there before. I don’t see the problem. That seems like one of the better government expenditures to me. I bet most citizens would be willing give up $40 or a couple weeks garbage pick up for that. I know this is a libertarian cause celeb, but there must be plenty of bigger boondoggles than this $40 a year.

    1. I don’t think you have the numbers fully in hand. My understanding is that the $40 is just the annual hidden net drag on the economy at large, in addition to the cost of the stadium, operations, etc.

      1. …subsidized cost of the stadium, etc.
        Our local NHL arena was paid for privately after voters turned down request after request for a tax. Now, of course, the owners are threatening to bolt if the government doesn’t take it over and give them a sweetheart deal.

      2. I don’t see why they would figure it that way since the case they are making would be a lot more powerful if it was expressed as you believe. I suspect I have it right. Net is net.

        1. But given the fact that Hamilton County (Cincinnati) has a population under 1 million, each person has already contributed a thousand bucks to built the 1 billion cost of construction.

          1. Did I just write “to build… the cost of construction”?

    2. Everybody probably has one or two issues that they would be willing to give up $40 for. However, EVERYBODY has to give up the $40, and when you add up everybody’s $40 pet project, taxpayers are paying THOUSANDS of dollars total. If enough people are willing to spend the money on the stadium, then why not have the team foot the bill and they can pass the expense on to the fans via ticket prices, merchandise prices, etc.?

      1. Thanks for putting it so well, I was trying to think of a way to summarize a response to the “it’s only $X per person” canard.

    3. How many of those people paying $40 a year even care about the team?

      Also when they knocked down those “projects” the people in them did not disappear, they moved to new neighborhoods where they created new projects. As to empty lots, at least the empty lot does not cost millions in maintenance and there is a chance that a tax paying business might move in as opposed to a business which is given tax money.

  17. The only cure for these rust belt states is liberty and a return to the work ethic that built them.

    As Drew Carry said to the Cleveland city council: paraphrasing: You need to make this the most business friendly city in the world.

    It’s that simple. You don’t have to pay them, just welcome them and don’t try to fleece them. The parasite investors will go elsewhere and feed off of someone else. Healthy business plans don’t need paid off.

    1. + infinity

  18. Good point- amid all the business people in the mix here (who probably have financial interests as well), the ones who are pro-stadium are flailing about for pricing schemes to support the new stadium. One gent suggested that fans going to games foot increased surcharges to pay for the newer stadium. I love that idea- how many people are going to pay $XX more to see the crappy local team lose?

    Why cant these idiots in office force a standoff to these bastard opportunist owners? The usual threat of moving a team isn’t even worth entertaining. I still can’t believe that played any part in the stadium financing for the Yankees.

  19. What’s the chances of forming an effective nationwide “No More (Tax Funded) Stadiums” non-profit organization? If everyone said “no” the bastards wouldn’t be able to pull the “we’re moving to Dubuque!” card.
    The org. could pull together all the research and help local groups opposing the stadiums.
    Can anyone think of a good acronym for the group?

    1. Yeah, it should be called the Libertarian Party.

      1. I didn’t realize the LP had become so tightly focused.

  20. Why do cities subsidize pro sports?

    Because the voters of said cities want them to.

    Because having a major-league sports team improves the quality of life in a city and also serves as a kind of advertisement for the city on the national scene.

    1. Like, Cleveland: We suck way less hard than our teams!

    2. Let us assume that the “quality of life is improved”

      The average paid attendance figures for the four main professional league sports in the USA:
      NBA – 17,520
      NHL – 17,460
      MLB – 30,338
      NFL – 68,240
      (Source: Wikipedia)

      Using the NFL number and assuming that you need a CMA of around 2 million for a city to support a team, we would need approximately 30 different separate “quality of life” activities to provide something for everyone, for a total cost of 30 x $40 = $1,200 per person in the CMA.

      Why should I spend $1,200 to get one of something that I enjoy and 29 things I don’t, when, if I keep the money, I can get 30 things I like?

  21. Why do voters vote for the stadium taxes? Because owners claim they’ll get the deal in some other city and mover the team if the locals don’t come through. If every city said “enough,” that tactic would no longer work.

    1. We’re hanging tough on that in San Diego, but damn if the jocksniffers aren’t the best allie a billionaire owner could ask for.

  22. “And for the record, having a professional sports franchise in your area is a net drag on your local economy, to the tune of about $40 per person in terms of local GDP”

    I seriously doubt this applies to the Yankees.

    1. The new Yankee Stadium cost the public nearly $1.2 billion (The Mets new park was a mere $614 million).…..-costs.pdf

  23. that degenerate fuck Art Modell

    I hope that bastard’s grave reeks of piss from the time he croaks until the end of the world.

  24. having a major-league sports team improves the quality of life in a city

    Get your head out of your ass, dan.

    1. Get your head out of your ass, dan

      Why should Dan have to give up one of his “quality of life” moments?

  25. Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

  26. If you would have a thing well done,do it yourself.

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