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Volokh Conspiracy

Boston will not use eminent domain to build an Olympic stadium [updated with clarification]


Yesterday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the city will not use eminent domain to acquire land to build an Olympic stadium if it succeeds in its bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics:

Speaking on the WGBH program Boston Public Radio Friday afternoon, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city would not take property by eminent domain to facilitate a 2024 Olympics bid.

"This is the first time I've publicly used the words eminent domain, and I am not going to be using powers to remove businesses because of an Olympic bid," Walsh told hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude. "They (Boston 2024) will either negotiate and work with somebody, or they'll look at another venue."

This is a welcome decision, because the use of eminent domain for this purpose would have been a terrible mistake, for reasons I discussed in this post.

Unfortunately, some other cities continue to condemn property to build sports stadiums, even though studies by experts across the political spectrum almost uniformly show that public subsidization of sports stadiums harms local economies more than it benefits them. I am a big sports fan myself. But professional sports teams should pay for their own stadiums, and acquire the land they need to build them by buying it from willing sellers.

UPDATE: It is important to note that the mayor's opposition to the use of eminent domain does not definitively resolve the issue. The Olympic organizers could potentially succeed in passing "omnibus" state legislation creating an entity with the power to use eminent domain to build Olympic facilities. However, if the Mayor and the local Democratic Party power structure is opposed to the use of eminent domain, the likelihood that it will occur is greatly diminished.