Throw a Billion Dollars From the Helicopter

A tale of ballpark upgrades and wasteful government spending


When voters in Arlington, Texas, approved a 2016 referendum to replace their then-22-year-old ballpark with a new retractable-roof stadium, the $1.1 billion project appeared to be more on the up-and-up than were some other recent ballparks. Around the same time, teams based in Atlanta and Miami were also getting upgraded stadiums via backroom deals and public deceit.

Don't be fooled. Throw a Billion Dollars From the Helicopter, a documentary from Michael Bertin now streaming on Amazon, reveals how city and team officials beanballed opponents of the new Arlington stadium, called Globe Life Field, to win the referendum.

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams is the prime villain. After he was elected on promises of cutting government, he transformed into the lead cheerleader for the project. Meanwhile, Rangers team owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson—two of the richest people in Texas, Bertin points out—spent more than $2 million to convince voters to pitch in $500 million for their new stadium.

An all-volunteer squad of Arlington residents, armed with nothing more than an understanding of economics, stepped up to the plate to stop the pro-stadium rally, but they were outpitched. As usual, there is little reason to believe the stadium will be a financial benefit for the city or its taxpayers. Arlington residents would be better off if officials literally dumped piles of $20 bills out of helicopters hovering above the city, University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson says.

The facts might be on their side, but the effort to defeat the stadium project goes down swinging against the potent combination of big-league sports and mid-sized city politics. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the grand opening of the Rangers' new ballpark, but taxpayers have already taken the loss.


NEXT: Marijuana Federalism

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I love sports, but there’s no reason taxpayer money should be going to stadiums or owners. Whenever the owners cry poor during CBA negotiations if these things are such money pits why are they worth hundreds of millions of dollars into the billions. There isn’t that many owners trying to sell.
    Scott Walker gave 250 million to the Bucks when he was governor of Wisconsin. Seattle got screwed by Clay Bennett and David Stern. There was talk of the Mariners and Seahawk moving during the 90s. The Ms made the ALCS In 95 to secure taxpayer money for T Mobile park. Paul Allen bought the Seahawks to keep them in Seattle. It helped he got taxpayer money to build CenturyLink stadium. Both stadiums have retractable roofs and are next to each other. T-Mobile it’s needed because it rains a lot during baseball season, but they leave CenturyLink open during football games. The main reason it’s retractable is to hold concerts there. Well if Paul Allen and Nintendo(who owned the Mariners) are gonna use hundreds of millions of tax dollars they should have to work something out about holding concerts at t-mobile. There’s no reason you need two publicly funded retractable roofs next to each other.
    Then around 2005 Howard Shultz sold the Sonics to Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett. Bennett always planned to move them to Oklahoma City and was glad the taxpayers wouldn’t build another stadium. Now it’s common for an owner to use the threat of relocation to get taxpayers to build stadiums.
    Paul Allen also owned the Portland Trailblazers and got taxpayers to help build the Moda center. Part of the deal was to develop the indusrial area around the Rose Quarter. 25 years later there still isn’t much there.
    Bottom line is taxpayers and cities need to stop giving in to these owners demands. Problem is since everyone wants a team if Baltimore tells Bob Irsay to go fuck himself then Indianapolis is willing to give him millions if it means they get a team. Hell at least these relationships were used for good back in the day. The Washington Football team used to lease RFK stadium from the federal govt. Racist owner George Preston Marshall refused to integrate his team. The feds said they couldn’t play at RFK unless they integrated. Now days it took FedEx to get Snyder to remove the Redskins racist name.

    Stop giving sports teams taxpayer money.

    1. So we can add paragraphs to the list of things you’re a bigot towards.

      1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…DFe after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

        Here’s what I do…>> CashApp

      2. Start generating extra cash online from hom emore than $22k by doing very easy work just in spare time. Last month i have got paid $22745 from this easy home job. Join this job right now and makes more cash every month online. Just follow web link here to get started…Open This Website …….Click For Full Detail.

    2. I agree with you, instead of giving it to baseball stadiums the money should be diverted to the Mormon church.

  2. Jesus, you don’t want government to waste money on ball parks, you don’t want government to waste money on the military, you don’t want government to waste money on the police, you don’t want government to waste money on farmers, you don’t want government to waste money on corporate welfare – just what the hell do you want government to waste money on?

  3. Maybe we shouldn’t let a corporation give money to politicians or spend money to influence a referendum.

    1. Or maby we should limit the power government has to pick winners and looser, removing the incentive to give polititions money

    2. That would be a clear violation of the first amendment because for it to be in any way effective would require the restriction be placed on individuals as well as corporations, lest the corporation just cut a check to the CEO, he deposits it in his own checking account, then writes a personal check, as an individual, to give to politicians or influence a referendum

    3. Sure.

      I will make a deal with you. Let’s agree to get money out of politics, but only if we also get politics out of money.

    4. Like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the SEIU? I don’t think the “corporashions” are what you think they are.

  4. Arlington residents would be better off if…

    We all know that the stadium was not built for the benefit of Arlington residents.

  5. [ USA PEOPLE COME HERE ONLY ] My last month’s online job to earn extra dollars every month just by doing work for maximum 2 to 3 hrs a day. I have. joined this job about 3 months ago and in my first month i have made $12k+ easily without any special online experience. Everybody on this earth can get this job today and start making cash online by just follow details on this website….Click For Full Detail.

  6. Only a billion dollars. In D.C. they throw that back because it’s too small.

  7. The Ballpark in Arlington was a great stadium. Baseball should be played outside, on real grass. Even when it’s swelteringly hot in Texas in August.

    1. And stadiums should last longer than 20 years. The great ones do — Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park. Just a few upgrades every few decades.

    2. Baseball should be played in venues that are economically sustainable, regardless of whether it’s played outside, on grass, or on the surface of the the Sun.

  8. Next time, use a pure NFL stadium. It’s a more indefensible position, but not by much.

  9. The Ballpark in Arlington was a great stadium. Baseball should be played outside, on real grass. Even when it’s swelteringly hot in Texas in August.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.