The Wall Street Journal lays out the grim reality of just how much Hamilton County, Ohio, home to football's Bengals and baseball's Reds, shelled out to keep those team's owners fat and happy:
At its completion in 2000, Paul Brown Stadium [where the Bengals play] had soared over its $280 million budget—and the fiscal finger-pointing had already begun.
The county says the final cost was $454 million. The team's estimate, which doesn't include infrastructure work around the stadium, puts the tab at $350 million.
But according to research by Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor who studies stadium finance, the cost to the public was closer to $555 million once other expenditures, such as special elevated parking structures, are factored in. No other NFL stadium had ever received that much public financing.
Add to that at least another $280 million in public financing for the Reds stadium. Needless to say, the taxpayers get virtually no cash flow from the stadiums.
That's a lot of tax dough anywhere but especially in an area in which, the WSJ reports, "one in seven people lives beneath the poverty line and budget cuts have left gaps in the schools and sheriffs department." Up next is a rollback of a property tax rebate that was used to get voters to support the financing of Paul Brown Stadium. To put it bluntly, the voters in Hamilton County were suckers: They voted for temporary tax breaks and long-term debt obligation, all for a sort of White Elephant construction that is proven not to increase the size of the local economy.
Is this any way to run a city, county, state, nation? And before you answer that, remember that while broke, the city of Cinncinnati is still pushing to build another proven money-suck: an old-timey streetcar.
Back in 2005, Reason reported on a court case pushed by a Hamilton County commissioner that in part charged the Bengals with breach of contract because they hadn't fielded a competitive team. Sadly, the Bengals had a couple of strong seasons…
A few days ago, we posted a must-watch video that asked whether you'd be willing to give up the Internet for a million dollars.
Let's revise that a bit and ask: Would you give up your sports franchises for a billion dollars? Hamilton County taxpayers are already on the hook but kids, don't let this happen to you.
Your tax dollars at work (awful taxpayer-subsidized team mascot edition):