The Ultimate Baltimore/Baseball Symbolism: Millionaires to Play in Empty, Taxpayer Financed Stadium

Camden Yards, long a symbol of downtown-development delusion, stretches a metaphor to the breaking point


Pretty sure James Earl Jones won't be delivering the monologue on this one. |||

Today Camden Yards, the ballyhooed baseball stadium in downtown Baltimore, will feature something never before seen in the century-plus history of Major League Baseball: an official game played with not a single paying spectator in sight.

After postponing yesterday's Orioles-White Sox game amid civil unrest, and locking in fans for a half-hour or so after Saturday night's contest with the Red Sox because of the conflict just outside the stadium gates, the team, in conjunction with MLB and state and local government officials, has decided that the best way to ensure fan safety is to not have fans.

Last lock-in I went to was considerably more fun than this. |||

It's no surprise that Camden Yards would play such an important symbolic role in the ongoing civic breakdown of Baltimore. The stadium has long been the prototype for showering tax dollars on millionaire sports owners in the name of spurring downtown urban renewal. As the Maryland Public Policy Institute's Louis Miserendino wrote in the Baltimore Sun on the occasion of the ballpark's 20th anniversary,

The imitators are many: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit have built downtown baseball and football stadiums as centerpieces of their redevelopment programs.

Clearly, this approach has made their downtowns more fun, but it comes at a steep cost: the hundreds of millions spent on stadiums were not available for new schools, better roads, improved parks or other infrastructure in neighborhoods.

None of the cities that banked on downtown "stadium stimuli" have reversed their population losses. Between 2000 and 2010, Baltimore lost 30,193 residents (4.6 percent of its population), St. Louis, 28,895 (8.3 percent), Pittsburgh, 28,859 (8.6 percent), Cincinnati, 34,340 (10.4 percent), Cleveland, 81,588 (17.1 percent), and Detroit, 237,493 (24.9 percent). Meanwhile, some cities that have refused to subsidize stadiums have fared much better.

When city governments give subsidies and/or targeted tax breaks, as is wonderfully illustrated by Todd Krainin in his Reason TV video about Baltimore development promises (embedded at the bottom of this post), chances are they will make up for the revenue shortfall by jacking up taxes and fees on the rest of their subjects. All of which makes these comments on the riots from John Angelos, son of longtime Orioles owner and trial-lawyer tycoon Peter Angelos (a uniquely despised person among Orioles fans, in my experience), ring just a wee bit hollow:

[M]y greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night's property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation by diminishing every American's civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

As Patrick Dougherty has previously observed (though using much more measured language than I), those looking for a villain in Baltimore's economic woes may want to fix their gaze up at the owner's box:

The $300 million that the City of Baltimore spent to build a stadium for a private entity could have been applied elsewhere that widespread benefit and wealth creation for its residents and left the Orioles to build the stadium themselves. […]

The true winners in the stadium subsidy game are, not surprisingly, the owners that end up making money off of generous leases to play in new stadiums that the people paying to attend and watch the games played there have actually paid for.

The other part of Camden Yards symbolism that has always stuck in my craw is what The Nation sportswriter Dave Zirin calls its "urban old-timey" design. Not that there's anything wrong with how it feels in Baltimore itself (which has one of the richest old-timey baseball and urban histories in the country), but do we really need ersatz nostalgia for some mythical good ol' days in Arlington, Texas and Queens?

You don't have to be Chris Rock to note the following progression: Pro baseball teams flee inner cities during and just after the racial unrest of the 1950s and '60s, then come back in the '90s and aughts dressed up in the distinctive clothes of pre-war nostalgia after being paid handsome bribes by city officials. It's a great deal for owners, players, well-heeled fans and tourists; pretty crappy for the rest of the city.

Game time today is at 2:05 ET, for those who enjoy weird echoes (or the sounds of baseball players cussing). I certainly don't agree with Dave Zirin about everything, but I'll give him the last word:

[T]here will be something haunted about the visuals that will ensue. Whenever the Orioles play away from home, the surrounding commercial neighborhood can resemble a ghost town, revealing the inability of sports to act as an economic stimulus. Now the inside of the stadium will be the ghost town. No fans. No workers. No screaming. No cheering. As quiet as Freddie Gray. 

NEXT: John Stossel on Who Really Creates Jobs

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  1. Why don’t cities include “If we build this stadium, we get X% ownership of the team” in their agreements?

    Other than the fact that they are fudiciary wastrels?

    1. See here. I would rather have Dan Snyder own all of my favorite sports teams than allow a city or god-forbid a state to have a controlling interest in my favorite team.

    2. State of Maryland attempted to use wminent domain on the Colts, which is why they left.

    3. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8012 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

  2. No mention of the City of Baltimore owned Hilton?…..story.html

    It only lost $5.6 million last year. That’s practically making money!

  3. When was the last time a new stadium was privately financed anyway?

    1. I believe that Pac Bell Park or whatever the San Francisco stadium is called was something like 90% paid for by the owners, shockingly. That’s about as close as you’ll ever get nowadays.

    2. Do MLS stadiums count?

      1. WTF is an MLS?

        1. Lou Gehrig’s disease.

        2. It is a sports league that largely pays its own way. I know, unheard of.

          1. They play on cow pastures, as far as I can tell.

            When it’s time for play-offs, they actually remove the cows.

    3. Whatever the Miami Dolphins stadium is being called now was privately funded. Of course, the stadium being owned by the team resulted in an estate tax so high that the relatively cash poor heirs were forced to sell the team and the stadium in order to pay it.

      1. the huizenga dynasty is cash poor? even by our monacle buffing / orphan peddling standards thats a pretty shockingly effette statement.

    4. Metlife may have been.

    5. FedEx Field

    6. Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots and I think Revolution) was paid for entirely by Robert Kraft. I think thr taxpayer picked up the costs to improve the area infrastructure.

    7. I’m pretty certain the New England Patriots’ stadium was privately purchased.

  4. Interesting that the news media fawning over the comments made by the Spawn of Angelos aren’t asking him whether the value of municipal financing of his fucking stadium could have been better used in the local community.

  5. ” (or the sounds of baseball players cussing)”

    Who hasn’t heard that before. For years and years, Greg Maddox was the only person allowed to cuss on TBS.

  6. Has this ever happened before? Why would they have the game with no fans? It’s insane. Why not just have the game elsewhere?

    1. Apparently the lost revenue for the Orioles is less than the expense of rearranging the schedules and making other teams involved in this clusterfuck.

      1. The Nats are out of town. Would it really be that hard to go to the stadium a half hour away?

        1. Apparently, there is so much bad blood between the nats and Angelo he wouldn’t even think about asking them

      2. OK, at least there is a non-retarded financial reason, but…it’s still insane. It’s going to be recorded. Comedians, news, everyone is going to have a field day with this. Do they not understand that?

        1. Why can’t the Orioles serve beer is it so hot at the Baltimore ballpark?

          Because they lost their opener there are no fans!

        2. dude it’s Angelo’s he’s already a joke.

        3. It’ll be looked back on as a quirky week in baseball by the end of the season. I remember some years ago the Angels were in Cleveland but it was snowing so they had to move the series to the indoor stadium of the Milwaukee Brewers. Like 10000 people showed up including a woman with a sign that said “GO WHOEVER!”

          Nothing damaging to the brand.

          1. Brand? What brand?

              1. Brand? I thought it was a tattoo?

                1. Tattoo? I thought it was a sticker.

              2. Brand? I thought it was a tattoo?

              3. Joakim Noah already damaged the brand…

                “Cleveland really sucks.” Then he really went postal.
                “I don’t know about this place, man,” Noah said in an interview with TNT back then. “I just stayed in my hotel room. Every time I look out my windows, it’s pretty depressing here man. It’s bad. It’s bad. No ? no going out in Cleveland, man. It’s all factories.”
                Asked later if he regretted those comments, Noah responded, “Not at all,” then further enraged Cavs fans.
                “You think Cleveland’s cool?” Noah said. “I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about Cleveland?”

              4. The brand is a little red sambo. Damaging enough begore taking the field.

          2. it was snowing so they had to move the series to the indoor stadium of the Milwaukee Brewers.

            Which surely involved a lot more logistics than would be in place for switching to the Nats’. Tell me again why they’re playing in Camden instead of just going down the road? Are they afraid they’ll get too many fans for the skeleton crew of Nationals Park to handle (the most likely scenario with how security obsessed venues are)? Or is there some non-baseball event planned there?

          3. The best baseball game I ever went to was at Comiskey between the Marlins and some other random NL team – hurricane-related, I think. Anyhow, it was in the middle of the day, with general admission at about $10… that was the one time I’ve gotten *really good* seats for any sporting event more popular than women’s college lacrosse.

    2. “Integrity of the schedule” or some such BS(?)

    3. I think they are doing that to some extent–I heard a Rays game or series with the Os was being moved down here.

      1. Yes. The upcoming series with the Havana Rays (that’s where the team will end up eventually) will be played at the Trop – with the O’s as the home team.

        1. You’d think, being in the same division, they could just play the series normal and have some three game series later in the year in Baltimore instead of Tampa (assuming OPCY hasn’t been burned to thr ground by the folks that need moar grocery stores).

      2. Yes, but the Os will be the home team and bat last in the Tampa Bay Rays ballpark. Which makes me wonder if the stadium will play the celebratory music whenever they score.

        1. Which makes me wonder if the stadium will play the celebratory music whenever they score

          Not that it matters since no one will be at those games either.

        2. Well, New Orleans Saint fan knows what it’s like to go thru that…

    4. they are playing 3 “home” games in Tampa instead of hosting the Rays in Baltimore

  7. It’s always the millionaires’ fault, isn’t it, Reason?

    1. Reason only kowtows to billionaires, thank you very much.

      1. I’m trying to find quotes from this week’s Silicon Valley where billionaire Gavin Belson compares billionaires to Jews in the Holocaust, but I can’t because it just aired. Damn it!

        1. Just rewatch that part of the episode you torrented.

          1. Dude, I have HBO. Come on. It’s sitting on my TiVo right now.

        2. I just found an article talking about it and this is hilarious:

          “Belson, here, adds that you “could argue that billionaires are actually treated worse, and we didn’t even do anything wrong.””

          1. Yes, that was one of the lines. It was really funny because he starts out making a valid point about people getting all retarded about profit, and then he careens into the Jew analogy out of the blue. It was perfectly done. That show is so fucking good.

  8. 2 things – first, Matt that is alt-text WIN. Second – GO AHEAD, MAKE A WHITE SOX JOKE!!! *balls fists and assumes boxer’s stance*

    1. balls fists

      Careful, you might hurt yourself. Unless you’re into that…

      1. Better than fists balls!

        1. You’re a funny man. Wanna hear something funny, funny man? Knock-knock MY FIST UP YOUR BALLS.

          1. If you fake fist their balls they will walk around Columbia Univ. with a matress on their back all semester.

      2. Hey, if she/he is gentle it adds another layer of complexity to carnal relations…

  9. White people, can’t live with them, can’t live with out them.

    1. Mazeltov.

      1. What do you call a bottle of Manischewitz with a flaming rag hanging out of the end?

        A Mazeltov cocktail!

  10. Look on the bright side: Maybe the “no fan” idea will catch on in other areas.

    How about with the State of the Union Address? The Inauguration? Think of the taxpayer money that would be saved!

  11. Take me nobody out to the ball game!

    1. Steal me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!

      1. I don’t care if I never get in (because it’s closed to the public)!

        1. It’s loot, loot, loot for the home team!

        2. So let’s root, root, root for the rioters. If they don’t live it’s a shame! For it’s one! Two! Three (baton) strikes you’re out at the old riot game!

      2. *Cracker’s Jacks

  12. but it comes at a steep cost: the hundreds of millions spent on stadiums were not available for new schools, better roads, improved parks or other infrastructure in neighborhoods

    Meh. It’s not like throwing more money at schools will make them any better. I am also betting there is plenty of money in the Maryland budget for better infrastructure – the problem is that kind of spending doesn’t get politicians elected.

    The steep cost is entirely born by the taxpayers of Maryland.

    1. Schools! Roadz! Parks!

      Drink, drink, drink!

      1. ‘Cuz, god forfend, any of that ‘taxpayer money’ should be left in the hands of the taxpayer to spend.

        And I can’t believe the squirrels don’t know the word forfend.

  13. This should give Fantasy Baseball a shot in the arm!

  14. Huh. The cities ruled for decades and decades by Dems are collapsing into chaos. Every program they have, such as building stadiums at taxpayer expense for urban renewal are spectacular abject failures. The glaring obviousness of this lost on everyone save a few assholes like us.

    And yet, from the Stossel article with the comments link having been eaten by squirrels, “It’s natural that people think government creates jobs, writes Stossel, because politicians always say that.” That is right, people believe the utter bullshit spewed by the worst kinds of people.

    That is the scariest line I will read today.

  15. It would be interesting to see in that list of cities with failed stadium-as-urban-renewal schemes what percentage of their residents get their paychecks from the government. When production and distribution need not be centralized and can be done as easily in Peking as in Peoria, cities are going to have to find some other reason to exist. Las Vegas does fine as an entertainment center but I don’t think we need or want or can support 100 Las Vegases. Other than that, a lot of cities just seem to be operating on inertia, but supporting the parasite class only lasts so long as there’s an actual host to feed upon. Once the host gets tired of being fed upon, it dies or escapes no matter how hard the parasites insist the host owes them a living.

  16. “but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others”

    So does this dope think that Baltimore was a middle class paradise,with full employment, in the 1960s and 70s?

    I lived in Baltimore in the 1970s. Even with the riots, it is far better today than it was back then.

    What a buffoon.

  17. The article from the Baltimore Sun, at least as quoted here, makes a glaring omission and begs a major question in coming to its conclusion. First the omission of a disproving counter example, Houston has both built a new downtown baseball stadium and increased its population. So the two are not necessarily linked. Second, the begged question that the money would in fact have been spent on things that might improve the laves of the average or poorer citizens. None of this contradicts the principle of not providing corporate welfare but the faults in the article undermine the making of the case it intends to lay out.

  18. Will they pipe in crowd noise for people listening on the radio? Making the radio & TV announcers complain about the sound?

  19. Good fucking grief – correlation v causation, anyone?

    Build stadium versus population loss. Well yes, obviously the two are just hand in fucking glove.

    EVERY city in the US pretty much builds a stadium when blackmailed by a sports owner. The ones (Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis) which are demographic catastrophes to begin with have also lost a lot of population.

    Also, I can’t believe this author seriously advocates for spending stadium money on shite like schools. I will grant that stadium money is most likely wasted. But money on schools is 100% wasted in these places. Rather have the stadium, then.

    1. Since you mention population loss, that reminds me – back when they were building new stadiums in Philadelphia, the wise and benevolent Mayor John Street wanted to build the new baseball stadium in Chinatown, rather than where Veteran’s stadium had stood (and where everyone know it would end up).

      It seems the folks in Chinatown weren’t particularly supportive of Street when he was up for election.

  20. Please tell me this is being broadcast. Anybody know what channel? I have to watch this giant fucking clusterfuck.

  21. The question is, does (investing in) great infrastructure and education lead to prosperity and wealth, or is it the other way around?

    Japan and Korea and have lightning speed internet compared to the USA and their public transportation enables many people to exist without owning a car. Kids in Asia FORFEIT the prime of their lives going to school. Europe has good roads in some places. Obviously those places aren’t Shangri-la and many blacks have ZERO chance of finding a foothold there.

    Black America has a serious problem. Violence among themselves, from the police, constant poverty, alienation from immigrants, etc. They’re being made irrelevant as other protected groups (gays, immigrants) continue to increase their influence. Asians and Latinos in America can create an unique economy in their own market or import business from their motherlands. Blacks don’t have that kind of networking. There’s not much demand anywhere for “African American” products – other than sports and some music.

  22. My question is how many different pro teams receive federal money? Or tax relief?

  23. So can anyone explain to me WHERE all of this money from these businesses and tourist attractions built along the harbor GO? I’m guessing the ‘idea’ when these developments are originally conceived is that the influx of businesses will lead to hiring local people which will in turn lead to an upswing in the local economy, but….is that it??

    1. It goes somewhat to the people working. Some of it goes to government largesse. And some to the teacher’s union.

  24. my roomate’s half-sister makes $71 /hr on the computer . She has been laid off for 5 months but last month her pay was $17321 just working on the computer for a few hours
    …… ??????

  25. my neighbor’s aunt makes $86 every hour on the internet . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $15501 just working on the internet for a few hours
    …… ??????

  26. I for one, am very pleased that those factory owners shipped jobs overseas to
    places like China, which is described as a thrid rate dictatorship (as opposed to
    Obama’s America, a fourth rate dictatorship, a “democracy” in which a health system rejected by 3/4th of the public becomes the law of the land.)
    The unions of B’More raped the American consumers for decades with their obscene wages,
    now that economic justice has finally prevailed, the libtards are whining.

  27. I for one, am very pleased that those factory owners shipped jobs overseas to
    places like China, which is described as a thrid rate dictatorship (as opposed to
    Obama’s America, a fourth rate dictatorship, a “democracy” in which a health system rejected by 3/4th of the public becomes the law of the land.)
    The unions of B’More raped the American consumers for decades with their obscene wages,
    now that economic justice has finally prevailed, the libtards are whining.

  28. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing,


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