Year after year, city boosters tell us building new stadiums at a cost of hundreds of millions or even a billion dollars will create jobs, bring back neighborhoods, spur development, build national buzz and image, and stimulate local economies. The evidence shows this is mostly hooey. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Yost sheds light on one of the great public policy travesties of our time:
Yes, stadiums do create high-paying construction jobs
for a year or two. But the vast majority of long-term employment is
low-wage concession jobs. A Congressional Research Service study of the
Baltimore Ravens stadium found that each job created cost the state
$127,000. By comparison, Maryland’s Sunny Day Fund created jobs for
about $6,000 each … A 1998 report by the New York City Independent Budget Office
found no “economic rationale for assuming that building any new stadium
would itself spur construction of office towers and hotels. Total
output resulting from the presence of the teams in the city amounts to
less than one tenth of one percent of the economic activity in New York
But perhaps the best argument against publicly financed stadiums is straight out of Econ 101: Opportunity cost. “What else could the city have invested its money in
and what kind of a return would it have produced?” said King Banaian,
chairman of the St. Cloud State (Minn.) Economics Dept.
While using public money to subsidize stadiums and sports is economics and bad economic development is in most every city, wealthy cities like NYC, DC, LA or Boston can to some degree afford such extravagances. The real tragedies are in smaller, older, stagnating rustbelt cities – like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis and others, where city revenues are terribly strapped and stadium funding takes away from pressing local needs from police and fire to schools and parks. I am amazed and outraged that such blatant abuse of the public purse is allowed to go on.