08 February 2011


Hardly at any level is sports not entangled with government. From public parks and urban recreation departments, to public university athletic departments, taxpayers foot at least some, and frequently much, of the bills.

But, especially in professional sports there is a tight relationship with public financing of sports stadiums and arenas. Look at a few: The ball park for the Houston Astros cost $250,000,000 with taxes accounting for $180,000,000. Miller Park, in Milwaukee, cost $367,000,000, with taxpayers paying $277,000,000. Denver Broncos' stadium cost $360,000,000, with the public billed for $266,000,000. The stadium for the Seattle Seahawks cost $430,000,000, with cost to the taxpayer of $300,00,000.  I could go on and on--the costs directly to the public run into the double-figure billions of dollars over the last few decades.

After the public financing of a sports venue, the privately-held sports franchise's monetary value skyrockets. Frequently the franchises do not have to pay property taxes on the facilities--Madison Square garden is an example. This means that more profits accrue to team owners, with higher salaries going to players. 

It is not clear (probably doubtful, in fact) whether "the public"--beyond the urban elite--benefits economically as the urban elite indulges in their "edifice complex." While the huge sums of public money (yours and mine) go to glitzy venues for sky boxes, public schools starve and languish. As for the other sectors of society, the entertainment is good, especially for people of the urban underclass. For a time, they can forget that they might be part of the low-wage uninsured who are a health problem away from bankruptcy.

Might it be that lavish entertainment, provided at enormous social costs, is what an Empire in decline spends its resources on? As it does, the circus is fun.

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