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Taxpayers Should Never Subsidize Stadiums (bloomberg.com)
621 points by paulpauper 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 278 comments





The biggest abuse of this was definitely with the A’s stadium in Oakland. If a game doesn’t sell out, the city pays for the empty seats. Your tax dollars at work.

How is that even possible? It completely disincentives the need to market and sell tickets.

I assume there's rules against this, but take this to the extreme and see how preposterous it is: 365 days a year, 24 1-hour baseball games every day. The city will pay for it.


That sounds crazy, I can't find any information to back up that statement. Need source.

I'm finding something back in the 90s/early 2000s that might be related; the city was handling marketing and ticket sales, so maybe there was something there (if the city fails to sell so many tickets, they have to pay). But from what I'm seeing, that hasn't been true for about 15 years.


Source?

At least Cbase Center will be better!

Elected officials have been played by team owners and sports leagues.

The article conveniently neglects to mention one of the more notable examples of a certain very well known official getting "played" in this fashion (for the benefit of a certain hugely unnecessary sports arena on the edge of downtown Brooklyn):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bloomberg


Not even sure it's correct to say elected officials are being played. Quite often they're sitting on the same side of the negotiating table as the team owner without no one there to represent the public. In most cases with a few notable exceptions, the elected officials are as rah-rah for a new stadium as the team owner. Which is why in so many jurisdictions they no longer allow the public to vote on stadium funding. With the elected officials on board, why would the team owners ever want the public to have a voice?

I suspect that democracy is actually a driver here. I think that it's possible that the calculation is that "fans" will vote for a representative who backs the stadium where as most other voters will not care about the issue, and will switch off when it's raised as it's a "sports" thing. If you don't back the stadium then your opponent's will and you'll be out! Also I guess this falls into the "any publicity is good" bucket - so you back the stadium and the rich folks driving it will ensure that you are at events where the TV cameras are running and your face is on the screen.

Sorry, but that seems a bit confused. If there are not enough votes for a stadium, then there will not be enough votes to throw out a candidate for "not backing" a stadium.

Not allowing people a voice in the question and then blaming democracy for it? You can't blame an abstract system of government for sports owners making sweatheart deals that ignore public sentiment.


I think you are thinking that elections are a zero sum game, but the reality is that most people either don't vote, always vote for a party no matter what or vote for the candidate that they know. Politicians are all about influencing the swing vote - get people who never vote to vote for you or alternatively influence some small part of the electorate that does make positive decisions. Most people who don't want the stadium will either not vote or vote the way that they would have anyway, the calculation is that voters who are "fans" will vote positively for the people who stick up for their team. Stir in the "I'll vote for the person who's popular" block (which politicians are hoping that the free exposure in the stadium campaign will grant) and the negative effect of shutting out your opponent (because backing like this is strangely exclusive for some reason).

This is not how it works. If there is a number of people who really really really care about a single issue, it might be advisable for a politician to pander to their particular interests on the expense of the majority who cares only mildly about the issue.

Agreed - they're not stupid, it's just not their money.

If I can reap the glory of a new stadium, or hosting the Olympics (as my city just narrowly avoided) while you pay the bill for years to come, that's a winning proposition.


the sad part most of them are in it for personal gain as they usually put together deals locking in seats to be used by various city committees or organizations that always seem to insure said politician is at the big games most of the time with their family and friends.

I cringe when I see SF bringing the Warriors to town. Why not use the space for housing? It’s not like Cincinnati where you need Sports attractions to draw people to the area.

Having a Sports Team May help local restaurants, but I would think so would more houses. When there are so many homeless people, the housing stock is more important than a stadium.


Chase Center is a pretty sorry scapegoat for SF housing problems. It's 100% financed by the team and was welcomed by residents. You can instead blame the thousands of acres of property in SF zoned for single family residences and all the empty plots in the Mission near BART.

There's nothing wrong with building entertainment venues in cities if they're financed without tax payer money.


> It's 100% financed by the team and was welcomed by residents

NIMBYs tend to welcome things that aren't new housing since they are likely to raise their property value. New housing has the potential to do the opposite.


There are very few empty plots in the Mission. The few that exist are slated for development, or vacant for a reason. Try to find one, other than the gas station by 16th street BART (which I almost guarantee is what you’re talking about, and is an exception, not a rule.)

You’re also overstating the support from “local residents”: the fact is that the city council gave a prime plot of redevelopable land (in a city with little available) to a sports team, as part of a sweetheart tax deal. It’s a criminal misappropriation of resources that was made behind closed doors.


It was PRIVATE land, zoned for OFFICES, owned by SALEFORCE, then sold to the Warriors. And 50% of the land is still being used for corporate offices (Uber HQ will occupy it).

Not sure what closed doors you're talking about.

The Warriors stadium is literally a gold standard and a model that other sports teams should follow. Not only did they pay out of pocket, but they donated millions to the city to help manage traffic in the area.


So will the traffic to/from be on private roads?

While the city of San Francisco put too much city money into the ballpark, that really was a run down warehouse area at the time.

What city money?

Pacific Bell Park was wholly privately financed, much of that from seat licenses. And the ballpark was key to the redevelopment of the entire China Basin area -- look at aerial photographs of the region before 1999.


FWIW the Chase Center is 100% privately financed. SF is actually benefitting from private investment into public transportation to/from the arena. Public housing is great, but it’s not like the city chose this instead of that.

Zoning is up to the city so it chose this. SF does not need public housing, even 1 million dollar condos in a high rise would help.

I agree. They can zone for housing. Anything that increases overall supply helps. They have mechanisms to encourage density (and affordability) too.

should cities not have entertainment venues that are welcomed by local residents?

Focusing on local residents tends to be a sum optimal. Focus on what’s best for all city residents and you avoid a lot of local maxima in favor of a global one.

Remember, people often have limited understanding of impacts focusing on a small percentage of what’s going on. Aka sound byte politics, a stadium is only half the story rarely used, low density parking can be a larger issue.


Not if it confounds homeless problems.

Apparently, San Franciscans think housing inhibits quality of life. Talking to a few people for here it’s as though the most important thing about the city is having a nice sunlight during the day, and being able to see some of the sky without looking upwards, not unimportant things like poverty or having properly funded service workers.

Also, if you've bought a home, increased supply might mean that your "investment" (because homes now seem to be primarily investments rather than a place to live) becomes less valuable.

No, if you've bought a home, you want ever increasing prices. But people forget that during the first half of life, you generally try to move somewhere bigger each time you move. If prices increase 10% on average, your $500k property is now worth around $550. Yay!

However, the house you want to buy, that cost $1m when you bought your current property, now costs $1.1m. So actually, you lost $50k for the standard of living you're looking for, rather than gained it.

If prices decreased 10%, you would seem to have lost $50k, until you want to move somewhere bigger and therefore can cash in the proportionally bigger "discount".


This raises the fundamental question: do people have the inherent democratic right to determine the population density of their own neighborhoods?

If yes, everyone will do as you say and vote to restrict housing supply to maximise their property value.

Democracy works great for deciding if your community wants a nicer dog park or a bigger library, not so great for deciding if your community should consists of single family homes or 4-5 story apartments.


>However, the house you want to buy, that cost $1m when you bought your current property, now costs $1.1m. So actually, you lost $50k for the standard of living you're looking for, rather than gained it.

I have 50K in cash which I can leverage into 250K worth of mortgage. That gets me more home despite the price increase. In turn, I get to pocket the difference between interest and home value increases when I eventually sell and retire to a place with normal housing cost.


Sounds like you've been talking to people who don't like their real estate values going down.

Also people who don't have their taxes go up when real estate values go up.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_California_Proposition_13


First I'm hearing of this. That's royally fucked up. I guess the only solution is to wait for all those people to die so that the homes will change hands and trigger re-assessment.

Nope. They can pass them to their kids, and it won’t trigger reassessment. > 60% of houses like that in the LA area are rented out for tax arbitrage reasons by the kids that inherited them.

They can buy multiple houses rent them out, and then let the kids live in them when they grow up.

Also, businesses can own multiple properties and sell them without reassessment (there is a well-known loophole involving shell companies that makes this possible).

Basically the only people that get hit by prop 13 reassessments this are young working families that need to upgrade, or want to buy into a stable housing situation to raise their kids.


If I were to speculate about the outlines of the “shell company” loophole you describe - I figure you would form a company to own the property, and then sell the company instead of the property directly? Is that right, and if so, any reason you can’t do that for a house?

Yeah I don't understand aggression toward long time residents. Like... On what basis is anyone wanting to move I to an area and opposed to... Exactly what's good about the area. More population density in SF sounds like a deal breaker to me.

It's already not worth any money to me to move between SF and mtv. Tried it for years. It's terrible already .


This also boggles my mind. The only ones allowed a say in what happens to a city are.. the people just moving to it? Aka the same ones who are responsible for a majority of the current issues?

Longtime residents of the city also suffer. The ones who weren't wealthy enough to but a house before the boom. Should homeowners be the only ones with a say?

Why is it royally fucked up? Where are you from and how long have you lived in CA to not know this? Because the guy working at UPS who grew up here depends on these laws so he doesn’t get priced out of his neighborhood.

If you move somewhere especially the Bay Area be prepared to pay the transplant tax.


> Guy working at UPS who grew up here depends on these laws so he doesn’t get priced out of his neighborhood.

Leaving aside how these laws led to the dire situation for the UPS guy in the first place, what if he has children? The firstborn maybe gets the place for cheap but others are essentially forced to "pay the transplant tax".


I call it "early adopters". This proposition basically secures guaranteed profits over 5 years. Once I saw this I did whatever I could do to buy California property. It's like a pyramid scheme, as long as people keep hitting big on those startups :-).

I don't live in the bay area and never will. I only travel there for work sometimes.

I think it hurts non-homeowning residents because it eliminates a powerful incentive for densification. Where I live, homes are taxed as if they were developed to their maximum zoned potential. This motivates people to move out of single-family homes so they can be redeveloped into higher density and add much-needed supply to the market.

It's true that the homeowner is worse off, but society does not function unless we prioritize the needs of the many over the few. IMHO. Also, the homeowners usually make an incredible amount of money selling homes that they bought for nearly nothing, so they get some compensation for the trauma of having to move.


It was originally not a terrible idea. You can be a poor family owning a cheap home, and rising property values can push up your property taxes to the point where you suddenly can't afford to stay in your own house.

Sure they could sell the now very valuable home and downgrade, but I find it inhumane to force someone out to "downgrade" from a home they already own.


They could take out a line of credit on their house and still be vastly better off than they were before the housing boom. Sure, they might not be overnight millionaires, but hopefully they didn't buy their homes _expecting_ the value to triple within a decade.

You think people are homeless because there is not enough housing available in the city? How many homes do you think you could build on the same plot of land as a basketball arena? Several hundred? Maybe a thousand condos? That’s like spitting in the ocean. And then what? Give them away to the homeless? It’s not like they’re going to pay for them just because you made a few more available.

Housing is expensive in big cities because there are jobs, amenities and entertainment for a diverse group of people. That entertainment includes sports.


There are people who are on the margin of being able to afford a rental. Increase in supply could slightly lower prices and allow those people to afford to rent a home.

You're right of course that the poorest people would still be unable to afford homes. Building more homes would reduce homelessness but not eliminate it.


Someone on the margin of affording a rental in SF isn’t homeless. They live someplace else that costs less. Why should taxpayers foot the bill to build more homes with the goal of making SF marginally more affordable when there are plenty of other good places to live? How is that better than some dumb stadium idea? And how long does it keep housing costs down? Those new homes will be gobbled up immediately and then the available inventory on the resale market will be back to about the same level as before.

seems like vienna is a pretty good example of how you are wrong: https://crosscut.com/2017/06/homelessness-housing-crisis-sea...

Because the the best jobs are in SF, so scratching SF off of your list if you're in particular industries is too large of a sacrifice.

The problem with NIMBYism isn't saying no to building more homes per se, it is saying no to more homes while saying yes to more jobs and more commerce that creates the problem.

Someone who works in SF, but lives 40 minutes away due to cost, should be considered a constituent of SF and their voice is as valid as that of a resident.


Yeah the city certainly benefits from their presence even if they don't pay property tax. NIMBYs are happy to profit off this as their property values soar, but they don't want to pay any of the cost.

  while saying yes to more jobs
How do local residents have any say in local job offerings?

By fighting high density projects that are residential ("It brings too much traffic! It'll shade this nearby park!") but not when they're for commercial use. See recent SOMA mixed use construction in SF. Office to residential square footage ratio is completely skewed towards offices.

Current estimate of homeless people in SF is a bit over 7000. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_San_Franci...) 1000 condos would be a massive boon.

Regardless, whether it's out of 10,000 or 1 million, that's 1 thousand people having homes that wouldn't have.

housing prices are definitely influenced by supply. and homelessness is definitely driven by housing prices. so, yea.

housing prices are definitely influenced by supply. and homelessness is definitely driven by housing prices. so, yea.

I think it’s more likely that mental illness and addiction are bigger factors, along with an absence of good interventions and an abuse of the prison system. Statistics showing a majority of American homeless people are either mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or both certainly support that view over yours, and reveals the deep complexity of solving the problem. You can’t just shove someone from the streets into a house and call it a day, they need far more support than that.


The working poor are the fastest growing segment of homelessness in my jurisdiction. That doesn't mean they're all living on the street. RVs, cars, shelters, etc.

The causality of homelessness and addiction is more like a negative feedback loop. eg No insurance, get sick or injured, self medicate with alcohol or oxy, loose job, loose housing.

The link between mental illness and homelessness is pretty straight forward.


What statistics are those? Can you cite your sources?

Because I've never seen anything that suggests that a majority of homeless people have addiction/mental illness problems. A higher percentage of such issues then the housed population, sure, but not a majority.

AFAIK, you can find a direct correspondence between increased rental prices and increased homelessness, and that's the main contributor. https://www.zillow.com/research/homelessness-rent-affordabil...

I mean unless you go back to the 1970's before the U.S. Government literally decimated it's housing budget (https://www.kcet.org/shows/socal-connected/the-rise-of-homel...)


Depending on your source it ranges from ~33% to over 50%. SAMHSA stats out it over 50%, others like this out it lower around 48%:

https://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf

https://sunrisehouse.com/addiction-demographics/homeless-pop...

https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/consequences/homeless-mental...

In January 2015, the most extensive survey ever undertaken found 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Depending on the age group in question, and how homelessness is defined, the consensus estimate as of 2014 was that, at minimum, 25 percent of the American homeless—140,000 individuals—were seriously mentally ill at any given point in time. Forty-five percent of the homeless—250,000 individuals—had any mental illness. More would be labeled homeless if these were annual counts rather than point-in-time counts.

https://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf

Although obtaining an accurate, recent count is difficult, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2003) estimates, 38% of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26% abused other drugs. Alcohol abuse is more common in older generations, while drug abuse is more common in homeless youth and young adults (Didenko and Pankratz, 2007). Substance abuse is much more common among homeless people than in the general population. According to the 2006 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15% of people above the age of 12 reported using drugs within the past year and only 8% reported using drugs within the past month.

https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/fixing-the-system/fe...


I don't think you can just add the Sahmsa data, as they may be separate questions. I looked for, and couldn't find the original report.

https://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/ lists housing and poverty as the major factors contributing the homelessness, and under other contributing factors says that, "Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness"

I could go through and argue these step by step, but I think my larger point is that homelessness is an economic issue. Drug addiction rates haven't increased over time (see https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/chart-s... ) It's harder to talk about mental health rates, since so many mental health issues are untreated and increased mental health treatment can be mistaken for new rates, but I've seen nothing suggesting that rates have increased dramatically since the 1970s. Homelessness however, increased dramatically. So I don't think you can place addiction or mental illness as the main contributor.

Getting to your statement on housing first initiatives, even if homelessness was 100% addiction and mental illness related, a stable location allows better continuity of care, provision of treatment, followups etc. Certainly sticking someone in a house isn't enough, but it can be a meaningful start, even if the person suffers from addiction or mental illness. It also reduces street victimization, infectious disease spread, hypothermia, etc.

Also, I'd note that homelessness is not just a single person issue. Many families become homeless, the National Center on Family Homelessness estimates 1 in 30 children are homeless (https://www.air.org/center/national-center-family-homelessne...). Housing first helps kids and families. Incidentally domestic violence is one of the biggest causes of women and families being homeless :-(.

I believe treating homelessness as merely as mental health/addiction/public health issue and not an economic consequence to reductions in affordable housing, housing assistance, and lower real wages for low income workers misses the point.

We've probably strayed a bit far from talking about stadiums, so I'll leave it be.


Maybe it's a coincidence, but California has twice as many homeless people per capita as the rest of the US. It also has house prices roughly twice as high.

It also has sunny weather that tends to be milder in the winter than most other places, which if you’re sleeping rough must help. Beyond that I’d hesitate to draw too many conclusions based on correlation.

Shoving people who need other supports into housing won't help homelessness for the people that need those other supports, but creating more affordability for people who need less serious interventions or are simply priced out of the market with help homelessness for them - whether those people make up the "majority" of the homeless or not.

Solving the entire problem is more complex than more housing supply, that doesn't mean that more housing supply isn't an important part of the solution.


i didnt say it was the only factor. but it is a major factor. ive read alot of stuff about it, here is the first thing that comes up when i googled just in case you are unwilling to do it yourself: https://www.inman.com/2018/03/21/rising-home-prices-lead-to-....

Also housing is expensive because there are not enough appropriate houses.

Even in SF with the legendary homeless problems there 1000 people off the streets would make a gigantic impact.

But what about building a giant homeless shelter instead of a stadium? Or.. how about having homeless dorms in the stadium? May be just trying would help?


It's like increasing the culture output in Civ

IIRC the Warriors stadium is privately financed. Not sure if there are any subsidies offered by the city.

Don’t bring Cincinnati into this! Cincinnati learned these lessons the hard way with their stadium deals in the 90s.

For the new MLS stadium being built here, the stadium is being privately financed. Public money is going to be used for a parking facility and other supporting infrastructure like streets, etc.


That... Sounds like subsidizing the stadium.

The city is paying for expanding general use parking in the downtown area around the stadium. It’s something that will be needed by everyone in that area, as is upgraded traffic infrastructure (lights, etc).

Yes, the enhancements are needed because of the new stadium, but the benefit is not entirely to the MLS team.

And these are nothing like the deals made many years ago where the city/county build stadiums for the Bengals and Reds and covered the entire cost, which is what was alluded to in the parent.


MLS has a bogus non-profit status, just like the NFL.

That’s a huge subsidy. The lost property taxes on the developed stadium alone are huge


So the profitable part is owned by the private financiers, and the city only pays for all the externalities?

Yeah, but the city doesn’t need to deal with the burden of owning the intellectual property, like the team name, etc.

If SF needs housing then they can just build into oakland and use BART to get into SF. Oakland is a very underdeveloped piece of real estate.

But then... SF still wouldn't have housing, Oakland would. It's in another county. Come on, there's no reason to limit buildings to as short as they are right now. It's as if the city of SF has given up on change entirely.

This is like beating a dead horse. People move to SF, complain there isn’t enough housing, do this for a few years and either leave or realize it’s not going to change. It is the way it is, it’s not changing in a year a or two. This is a generational thing that will take at least a decade if not longer to change. The End. Don’t believe me? Check this comment in five years.

Call it NIMBY call it whatever you want but there is _no_ incentive for long term SF residents (10+ years) especially home owners to support more housing, especially for tech transplants.


Their actions have a moral cost and the people who pay those costs aren't the tech transplants, they're literally every other kind of person who slowly finds themselves unable to live in a place that is just as much their home as the owners of property. Schoolteachers, firefighters, garbage truck drivers, restaurant workers, people who lost their job, people in temporary unemployment and in need of retraining.

I understand that the problem feels intractable, but it's because we treat the people make it so like something that simply is. It is not a thing that simply is, it is a moral choice made my hundreds of thousands of people over and over again and it is their failure.


Morality is a spook. There are no "moral costs".

Homesless people don't eat much at restaurants and usually they are bad for business. They are an entire different issue. Housing alone won't bring them back in the econommy

> The bottom line here is very simple: The cost of building and maintaining these facilities should be borne by the people who attend these events via their ticket purchases, and not the people of an entire state and/or metropolitan region, the vast majority of whom will never set foot inside these enormously costly structures.

The article is arguing from a perspective that amenities such as stadiums should be user-pays. There's an alternative viewpoint though; it could be a principle beneficiary-pays. Who benefits? Well for example the land values in the surrounding area are likely to rise, benefiting land owners through no effort of their own. If a portion of this windfall gain could be captured via say a land value tax, then that tax could partially fund the stadium in a fair way. But I agree with the author that subsidies through income tax seems unfair.


What you're describing is how property taxes already work. If the land value rises (however unlikely that is) most property taxes are based on assessed value which would increase your tax bill.

Land value rises? I would think noise and traffic decreases it.

Unless you're talking about commercial property, which has more value than residential property.

Where commercial property has more value due to more foot traffic, the closest residential property gets value too.


Very few Americans own land, and very few would benefit from such a land value rise.

He who owns a home, owns land (unless some other arrangement is made??)

It's very different. If you own a home next to the stadium you will likely loose out because every match day is a hell day for you (gridlock, noise, pollution) and the construction traffic will also be horrible. The money you will get for your house will likely be less than the money you will get before the stadium comes. On the other hand if you own a few "lots" or a strip of land near the stadium then you will make much money - a simple play is to turn the tumbleweed into parking, and sure as eggs are eggs you'll get $20 + per car sized space per match, which is a lot more than little or nothing! More investment and you could put cheap 5+1 development there, the retail can be focused on food and fan shops, the apartment will appeal to incomers.

Although I completely agree about the general premise, it's borderline intellectually dishonest to include a link to your own web site as a reference (the "infrastructure" link). Just include the direct references to third parties, like in the footnote.

Most outlets link to their own prior reporting instead of source material. Drives me nuts

Prior reporting is the one resource they can guarantee will not turn into a dead link.

" Stadiums add little or nothing to the local economy."

I think that AT&T Stadium (Arlington, TX) may be a good example of one that's helped. One article from 2015 says "WrestleMania — the Super Bowl of pro wrestling — is coming to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in April, and it could pack a financial wallop for local businesses."

The new Rangers stadium nearby has benefited, and so has nearby Six Flags & Hurricane Harbor. The new Arlington entertainment district and local businesses have been picked up as well. It feels like the whole area has improved.


When it comes to subsidies, I think you would have to quantify a "local economy" as the economy local to the government entity giving the subsidy. The article about WrestleMania is probably only talking about the economy within a few miles of the stadium.

E.g. if someone drove across town to attend WrestleMania, then on the whole, that local economy probably got minimal extra activity out of the participant - they were likely going to spend some or all of that money in the government's local economy anyways. If someone flew from out of state, then all their dollars are dollars you weren't going to see without the event.


Was that because of the stadium, though?

You have to look at the big picture of lots of different cases, rather than just looking at one example, to avoid the correlation == causation trap.

The other thing to look at would be, "what if we injected that money into the economy some other way, rather than into subsidizing a stadium?" It's possible that investing in, say, robust public transit would have an even greater economically beneficial impact.


>"what if we injected that money into the economy some other way, rather than into subsidizing a stadium?" It's possible that investing in, say, robust public transit would have an even greater economically beneficial impact.

Not in Arlington. It's a driving city between Ft. Worth and Dallas. No one is going to go visit Arlington because of robust public transit. They'd at best drive through to get to the Cowboys or Rangers games.


It could be a transfer of economic activity from larger neighboring areas, not necessarily creation of economic activity.

Yes, they are transferring the economic activity that comes with Cowboys and Rangers games (which are going to be played, new stadium or no) to Arlington... Directly from Irving in the Cowboys case and indirectly from wherever the Rangers might move. Also they have a bunch of other events in Cowboys stadium... not sure about the Ballpark.

And it was all subject to a vote and is just a slight increase on local sales tax. I too think it is a model example of a community voting for what they want and getting it, even if some newspaper tells them otherwise. Subsidizing entertainment should be the local populace's right despite the external guilt others want to heap on. Of course I think the same about communities and tax abatements for businesses too so I'm in the minority on HN.

If no-one tells the voters that what they’re voting for doesn’t make economic sense, then where are they supposed to find out?

Vested interests and popularist politicians have no interest in the facts, and are why we need newspapers ‘telling them otherwise’.


I think you're confusing telling voters what they're voting for and telling voters whether it's good or bad. Arts and entertainment are too subjective for these journalists to objectively proclaim they are bad deals. In the instance with the new Cowboys' stadium and the new Rangers' stadium, the electorate was plenty informed.

By "plenty informed", do you mean no more than a tiny minority thought they were buying far more economic stimulus than it would be realistic to expect? If everyone knew they were just using government to buy entertainment in bulk, them you are right, but things are often not like that.

  AT&T Stadium may be a good example of one that's helped
How many days out of the year does it actually host events?

The reason why politicians decide to subsidize stadiums and other sport venues / events (esp. the tax break deals given to UEFA/FIFA!) is imho relatively clear cut and dates back to the Roman Age: panem et circenses, aka "bread and games".

Basically, to keep the population happy, provide them with food and games for entertainment. And try to have your city team the best in league. For international events (Olympic Games, soccer Euro Cup/World Cup, Formula 1) in addition international prestige for the hosting country comes to play in decision making. Every country that hosted soccer EC/WC or Olympic Games in the near past has made, sometimes vast, economic losses. Lot of F1 race tracks have closed for F1 as it's not profitable any more, and public support is dwindling, but politicians still want to have the photo job opportunity at opening and irate their electorate.

(Am on mobile so if anyone wants sources, reply and I'll update tomorrow, but everything should be 1 Google search away anyway)


As long as elected officials believe sports fan voters will punish them for letting a team leave, they will be blackmailed by team owners. The day pols are punished by voters for subsidizing millionaires, that will stop.

There's a major delay between saying "yes" and seeing that it doesn't work. Probably a decade or so, plus they are many weasel words and other campaign issues: Yes, I voted for the stadium but I also support abortion /want you to carry guns in the park or whatever.

There is no question that public stadium subsidies are almost always a bad investment. However these type of articles never take into consideration that people generally like sports teams and want them to stay in the same region. It also isn't just people who attend the games or businesses around the stadium. A local sports team, unlike nearly any other private business, provides a huge but unknown amount of utility to a wide range of residents who never pay for a ticket or a piece of merchandise. Is it unreasonable for a sports team to want to benefit from that free utility?

Politicians shouldn't buy all of these stupid economic arguments for a simple fact they are often wrong. But governments aren't businesses. They don't have to make the smart economic move on every single decision. Creating a public park is rarely a smart economic move, but cities do it because that is what residents want. Politicians who let a sports franchise leave town without putting up a fight in negotiations are often quickly voted out (as well as politicians who offer too many incentives for a team to stay). So the people clearly want to keep teams when the cost is reasonable. The problem is what is "reasonable", especially when there is another city a few states over that has a slightly more generous definition of "reasonable"?

TL;DR - It is more complicated than "sports stadiums = bad" but these discussions rarely get deeper than that.


This is a very underrated point. I feel like in the abstract, we should be asking how much a city should be willing to pay for a place where tens of thousands of people can gather for a common purpose tens of times a year to attend an activity that tens (or hundreds) of thousands more people really enjoy watching on TV.

It seems very plausible that this should be a non zero amount. (Also plausible that it shouldn’t be in the billions...)

A lot of people think sports are not a worthy use of government funds, which I totally understand. But looking past the relative pointlessness of most sports, it really is an exceptional experience to be in a packed stadium whether it’s for a football game or a concert or whatever.


One big difference is that artists pay to use a venue for a performance. Sports teams get the city to pay to build the stadium, and keep the profits.

When I go to the theatre or the symphony or the ballet or the opera, the programs and the placards in the lobby always make it clear that most of their funding comes from donations from big companies (in Seattle: always Boeing and Microsoft) and private donors.

If we're so excited to spend public money for gatherings at events that people want to see, why don't they ever spend that sort of money on the arts? Why don't I see Seattle Pops concerts on TV? Why do we depend on private donations to keep the theatres open? Why do we zone for stadiums, but not community theatre?

Everyone I know wants to see more of these performing artists but most have trouble affording tickets. When you can't afford an NFL ticket, you turn on the TV and watch it for free anyway. When you can't afford to see the local arts, you're mostly just SOL.


Do you think there is a conspiracy to keep local art off TV? Or maybe the reason that you don't see the Seattle Pops on TV more is because broadcasters can't make money since people won't watch them? Sports are popular. That always seems to be a shock to people in the type of circles that frequent HN, but it is the underlying fact that allows sports teams to get these subsidizes in the first place.

"Conspiracy" is an ugly word, and usually not applicable. Let's not build straw men where none exist.

Go back a step. Why are sports so sought after? Well, they spend many millions of dollars on advertising, for one. That's more than the entire Seattle Symphony budget. How many people even know they play live movie soundtracks to popular movies here? Yet I don't even follow football and I can tell you about a team 2000 miles away which is in the playoffs. It's hard to avoid it. Why do they have that kind of money? Because they were successful in decades past.

I think a much simpler explanation is: a couple of professional sports leagues got big in the middle of the past century, for various reasons, and have used that success to gain a foothold into TV. Note that it isn't sports in general that are popular. There are really only 3 sports leagues that most of America cares about. Try to start a pro cricket league here and you'll just hear crickets.

The rich always get richer. In this case, the rich are getting richer using public money. It's not really about sports. Even the sports fans here aren't pushing to let kids play ball in the stadium when it's empty.


Nobody at a concert is going to wait through commercial breaks, for starters.

I think this is a question of relative popularity, they could hold a local arts performance at Centurylink and even if it were free, the stadium would still be mostly empty.

The 5th Avenue Theater holds a little more than 2,000 people, it’s not a giant logistical problem to fit an extra 2,000 people into downtown Seattle.

And I’m not trying to defend people’s preference for sports. I’m one of those people who wishes there was more of the arts around, but the demand for sports is enormous compared to the demand for local arts.


The last 3 live arts performances I went to had to turn away people because they didn't have the capacity to seat everyone who wanted to attend.

2000 seats isn't 2000 people. Add performers and stage crew and support staff -- and then consider that most of them have to leave town after the buses stop running for the night (and certainly can't afford downtown Amazon-esque rent). Do you think adding hundreds of cars downtown in the evenings isn't a major logistical problem?

In recent history, a significant theatre (not the 5th) was bought and sold under terms which turned out to be completely false. This isn't some libertarian fantasy where we're only giving people what they want. People in power are literally lying and cheating to keep the arts away from citizens.


If people like sports, they should express that preference not by spending tax payer dollars on stadiums, but paying higher prices on tickets to fund the increased cost of the stadium. That way, the market mechanism signals what is the appropriate level of resources society should spend on this kind of thing and instead of some backroom negotiation.

Please say "false equivalence" to yourself, as many times as you can.

You're going to compare a public park to a stadium? Go to a stadium without a ticket, and see for yourself just how "public" it is.

Really, really large numbers of people use public parks. Small, small numbers of people (by percentage, in large metro regions) ever see the inside of a stadium.

While I understand that there are many that enjoy professional sports, I certainly don't want my tax dollars supporting it.


You are missing basically the whole point of my comment. You don't have to enter a stadium or even pay a cent to a sports team to get utility from it. You can watch a game on free over-the-air TV or you can enjoy the communal aspects that other comments in this thread have mentioned. The business is generating positive externalities and therefore it might be appropriate to subsidize it.

Also, you might not want your tax dollars going to support professional sports, but many people do. That was my other point. We live in a democracy and the people generally are in favor of sports. The exact entertainment value it generates is debatable, but it is enough that these deals can be justified without requiring them to turn a profit. That was the only way I was comparing parks and stadiums. They don't need to be profitable to be a good use of money.


> Also, you might not want your tax dollars going to support professional sports, but many people do. That was my other point. We live in a democracy and the people generally are in favor of sports.

So let the taxpayers vote! If a majority wants to waste their money, then let them. But even then it is an absolute waste no matter your arguments because these are commercial entities backed by obscenely wealthy interests _that can afford to build them themselves_.


> You don't have to enter a stadium or even pay a cent to a sports team to get utility from it.

That is completely not true. But even if it was, why does the stadium have to be brand new and built in a high property value area? What's wrong with existing arenas?

> You can watch a game on free over-the-air TV

There are very few games that are shown OTA. And on top of that, there are commercials so it isn't free. Good luck trying to watch every game without paying money or doing something illegal. I'm willing to bet that this has never been accomplished by any fan in the history of sports.


You are just factually wrong here. The NFL mandates that every game that is sold out (nearly 100% of the games in the NFL) must be broadcast in the local market on free OVA TV.

And the reason why the stadium need regular upgrades is to attract the team in the first place. If a team doesn't have a new stadium like the St Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, or Oakland Raiders they will move to a market that either offers them subsidies or would simply be more profitable. That is the fundamental cause of all these problems.


Oh. I didn't realize this. None of the teams I'm a fan of are in my local area.

  There are very few games that are shown OTA.
All NFL games are broadcast OTA to the participating teams' home regions.

The game could be filmed in a comparatively cheap warehouse and you could still watch it on TV.

Awesome comment, and I legitimately have never heard this point of view before. You're right, the closest it ever gets is "don't you like [sports team]??" I'm far more inclined to change my view on this issue.

We (San Diego) recently had a protracted fight for our sports team. They wanted a new stadium, the city didn't, they moved away. I voted against it. I probably still would have, just because I think the NFL is dead in the long run from all the TBI stuff.


TL;DR - It is more complicated than "sports stadiums = bad" but these discussions rarely get deeper than that.

Additionally, the detractors often don't understand that these things are basically urban pacification projects. The argument has been made that having a place where the mayor sits down with a businessman on one side and a bricklayer on the other, where everybody has temporarily set aside their differences in politics, occupation, wealth, class, IQ, gender, religion, what-have-you and is lustily cheering for the same outcome, is good for social order.

To the extent that's true, it makes stadiums a valid subject for government funding. I don't like sportsball and I don't like being forced to pay for it, but I also can't see how to shoot any holes in this argument. It makes some sense.


You can always make up a story where your project brings intangible but wonderful benefits that no decent person could be against. This is normal.

If you can paint a rosy picture of community, or the happiness of children, or the safety of the vulnerable, it is indeed very hard to argue against. Saying the glowing vision is exaggerated or fabulated just makes you look like a grouch and a jerk.

In my town, the new stadium has a VIP area. Important people are specifically shielded from contact with bricklayers. Just saying.


Saying the glowing vision is exaggerated or fabulated just makes you look like a grouch and a jerk.

Yep. Unfortunately, the people who want to treat stadiums as public works projects have 2000+ years of history on their side going back to classical Rome and Athens. I've concluded that it's not a battle worth fighting, if only because my lack of appreciation of team sports makes me a bad judge of how important they are to society.


Panem et circenses.

Massive "sports" events have been a staple of social control since Greek and Roman times, and still are to some extent. Instead of going out and killing people on the streets, you just watch gladiators kill one another.

People still riot from time to time when their favorite team loses a big match, but those riots can be much more easily controlled and condemned than one that actually exposes deep fissures within the society.

Having said that, however, it's worth asking whether a democratic society should allow the government to encourage such a well-known method of silencing dissent.


It also benefits an area to have regional cohesion. I'm sure having the big local city and all its suburbs rooting for the home team helps with that.

The problem is using the electoral mechanism rather than the market mechanism to determine how much we as a society should allocate to stadiums.

In an electoral mechanism the 51% can compel the other 49% to spend tremendous resources on something the minority does not want. That is incredibly wasteful and those who want sports should pay for it directly via higher ticket prices instead.

Also a lot of these are a zero-sum contest between cities to attract the teams who demand the new facilities. The economic value is transferred rather than created when two cities are bidding against each other.

Same argument for bidding on Amazon HQ #2. Sports franchises and Amazon are leveraging their negotiating scale against local governments. Since cities cannot conduct "M&A", nor are they designed around the unyielding quest for growth, they will forever be out muscled by large businesses. This kind of subsidy simply needs to be illegal, as most cities are never in a strong negotiating position against private interests.


Nobody is confused about this point when the thing in question is highbrow (e.g. the symphony, opera, museums). We don’t get a lot of hot takes about how those are bad economic investments.

That's because we don't get many outright lies about how those are good economic decisions. They're usually framed honestly as "let's buy some culture".

I agree with you. Governments subsidize and pay for things with a lot less ROI than sports stadiums that can foster a sense of local community.

Seattle spent $5 million making public shelters for drug deals and prostitution[1], and I bet most residents would have preferred that money go toward a new basketball/hockey arena.

1. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattles-5-million...


Arlington, TX subsidized the Cowboys stadium and however that plan was structured they were set to pay off those bonds 14 years early (2020 instead of 2034). Instead they refinanced the bonds to help pay for the new Texas Rangers ballpark.[1]

The increased tax revenue really surprised them despite the projections being made before the recession. (A 25 year bond only taking 11 years to pay off.)

[1]https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2017/09/13/6...


They also took 19 properties from their owners to build it.

https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/eminent_domain_ruling_affe...


Meh. I’d rather my tax money be wasted on pro sports entertainment than starting wars in other countries, drone bombing civilians, bailouts for megabanks, etc.

Needs to be made illegal (not just stadiums) http://www.governing.com/gov-institute/on-leadership/col-eco... or at least not federally subsidized https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/134...

https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/ is a good general resource on the issue.


How would one propose to make it illegal for an elected government to finance construction of a public building? I mean, yeah, sports stadiums are wasteful. But how would you draft that such that it wouldn't eliminate libraries and museums?

I mean, I agree with you in spirit but at the end of the day the whole point of a democratic government is that it's empowered to work to better our collective lives. And that has to include dumb-but-popular boondoggles as offerings to attract football teams.


Sure, allow the government to construct sports stadiums. The government can then make it free for any sports team to use (though preferential treatment of any one team has to be prevented), and since it's a public building any revenue generated from ticket sales goes towards operating the building, with leftovers going back to the government (just like libaries, museums etc). There's nothing really wrong with that. Naming rights also obviously stay with the government, anything else would be silly.

There is something really wrong with that. The government is taking on concerns outside its core responsibilities. Sports are non-critical entertainment and that's something the government should not be creating. We can discuss regulations, zoning, and other ways government could be involved, but a lot of people don't use these stadiums, and I'm sure they'd prefer their tax money and gov resources be spent on more crucial infrastructure.

Don't all of those arguments also apply to libraries and museums?

Libraries and museums serve the purpose of educating the masses, which is something the government should be and is involved in (mainly because an educated populace is crucial for democracy)

And sport doesn’t provide education? Sport teaches self discipline and resilience, surely to traits that are essential to democracy.

so does math, or public gyms. All without the funneling of even more public money in to already wealthy hands.

You want stadiums? Sure. Public gets the profits with the owner renting the space.


There’s a huge corpus of jurisprudence on this in the EU, where such funding is illegal:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_aid_(European_Union)


Doesnt stop them giving land for free and supporting infrastructure though. Which can be a huge part of the cost. Aalianz Arena (munich) is a good example

It’s not a terrible thing to improve transport infrastructure for a part of the city. Similarly I was reading that the council local to Tottenham’s new stadium are improving public squares around the area, but they’re spending only £30m relative to a stadium cost of £850m. And it is public squares which are being improved.

Governments can usually spend to improve general resources around a project, but not contribute to the project itself. With the idea of preventing market distortion from subsidy and a race to the bottom between different states.

I’m surprised they can give land for free, I’d have thought that would fall foul of the legislation.


I don’t think funding is the problem. It’s misappropriation and lack of oversight. I was involved in the construction of two stadiums and the money is unlimited during construction. Very wasteful.

Pretty easy, private corporations are different than public non profit organizations. Football stadiums may weasel into non profit. But it is absolutely a for profit organization. I've never been to a library that requires an ultra expensive tickets. Museums have a reasonable rate for expenses in conjunction with donors.

It's a two part but simple questions for lawmakers: are you a profit making entity or are you not. if you are, please explain the benefits you will provide to the taxpayer, and it better wow me.

If it does go forward there should be contractual guarantees on jobs and tax revenue with fines for not producing.

Cities don't need to attract football teams. Football teams should be begging cities to allow them there.


On jobs, I’m unconvinced that stadiums create many jobs. At least at the stadiums I’ve lived near, they seemed to be fully staffed with far fewer people than other social venues - say casinos (though I don’t see a US government making a casino) or even a mall.

I’d rather localities invest in community centers, libraries, museums, etc than stadiums.


There will be a lot of jobs during construction, but it's perhaps worth noting that those will not necessarily be for locals. In operation, I agree that thr number of jobs is likely fairly low, and mostly low wage.

Those construction jobs are invalid for inclusion because they’re temporary unless the building is going to be destroyed and rebuilt regularly. The only jobs created that can be included in the decision to build or not are the long term jobs.

Or you could make teams pay for their own stadiums. They take the revenue so why shouldn't they? The equivalent is Amazon requiring local government to provide them with automated warehouses for them to relocate to (or remain in) that locality.

>dumb-but-popular

Do you have a recent example of a new football stadium that had popular support among the constituent taxpayers? My memory can only recall ones opposed by the general public.


I remember the Seattle vote back in the mid-90s, we clearly rejected it but they went ahead with it anyways.

I lived there then; as I remember it was put to the ballot two or three times -and when it kept getting voted down they basically just said "screw it" and built it anyway.

They passed a hotel occupancy tax by council vote alone to build it if I remember correctly...and the tax is still going on today. I'm far from a anti-tax conservative, but I feel like this is the wrong thing to be taxing for.

Cowboys stadium in Arlington. It was funded by a referendum, so it at least had popular support among local voters.

Don't they vote on them? In my hometown of Arlington TX there have been two stadiums* built with part public financing in the last decade. Both were ballot issues in a normal election. I thought that's how it was done everywhere.

* Jerry Jones's $1B monstrosity for the Dallas Cowboys was narrowly approved around 2008 and the new Texas Rangers stadium was voted on this past year, not sure the margin or cost.


To my knowledge, they're not on ballots in most cities.

Los Angeles has a new stadium planned for Inglewood with all of the risk borne by developers who then get to enjoy a cut of the future tax earnings

https://www.welikela.com/proposed-inglewood-football-stadium...


Simple: make them free to enter.

Museums aren't free to enter.

Many public ones are

And some non-public ones, like the Minneapolis Institute of Art https://new.artsmia.org/

Perhaps they should be.

Libraries are, but in larger cities like LA or SF they tend to evolve into coworking spaces for the homeless, at which point they cease to be public spaces that people feel comfortable taking their families to.

Why? Do homeless people eat children?

Might be a way to do it with a tax on private stadium construction. Allow deducting (private costs - all public subsidies). So for any local subsidies you receive, you have a commensurate increase in taxes.

Similar problems exist with subsidies for factories, although at least those are producing something at the end of the day.


> But how would you draft that such that it wouldn't eliminate libraries and museums?

That's easy! You just make the law only apply to stadiums.

I am sure it would be perfectly possible to include a detailed description of what a stadium is, in the law.


> How would one propose to make it illegal for an elected government to finance construction of a public building?

State constitutional amendments requiring a referendum.


Well, sure. That works if these things are unpopular. They're not. That's the problem.

Lost in the discussion of how many hundreds of million dollars St. Louis lost in its relationship with the Rams is the fact that the city loved that team and the stadium construction was a huge deal and a big political victory.

The underlying flaw in the reasoning here is that it's all based on a personal feeling that "My government is spending my tax dollars on something I don't like but other people do". Well... yeah. That's the cost of living under a government. The government's job is fairness, not pleasing everyone.


> That works if these things are unpopular. They're not.

I don’t have a comprehensive statistic, but almost every time I read about stadium subsidies being put to a vote (or a poll), the funding is rejected [1][2][3][4].

[1] http://www.golocalprov.com/politics/golocal-statewide-poll-j...

[2] https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/07/28/poll-finds-...

[3] https://www.ktnv.com/news/political/ktnvrasmussen-poll-voter...

[4] https://amp.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/voter-revolt-on-stadiums...


Hrmm, most of the time I've seen them on ballots locally they are approved.

>> the city loved that team and the stadium construction was a huge deal and a big political victory

Can you quantify "the city loved"?

I'm sure the construction was "a huge deal", large construction projects almost always are.

Something professional politicians choose to support != something that a majority of voters would choose to support, given the chance.


You can’t quantify love or sentiment unless you accept brand loyalty and subjective measures. It seems like a silly thing to request but perhaps that is your point. If these were ballot initiatives for funding similar to public transport you would see a bit more rejections from anyone outside of the city centers. If we go by popular vote you will likely see most cities vote to keep their teams because we’ve all been raised to think of them as ours despite owning nothing.

>> If we go by popular vote you will likely see most cities vote to keep their teams

Source?

>> because we’ve all been raised to think of them as ours despite owning nothing.

Not sure why there should be a connection between public funding for teams and teams staying in any particular city.

If all cities stopped public funding for privately-owned sports teams, the teams would still need a place to call "home".

The owners would just be slightly less rich.


I’m not implicitly agreeing that a connection should exist, but I’m also not going to pretend it doesn’t. Sports are a huge part of American culture and is one of the least contentious elements. I don’t have a source which empirically states “most cities would vote for the team” other than brand loyalty statistics which don’t correlate perfectly to this conversation. I’m attempting to discuss the less tangible aspect of this arrangement and why it is a bit of a radical variable in anyone trying to address this lopsided agreement. If you discount sentiment you aren’t even attempting to see why sports teams appeal to people and why they haven’t revolted at the thought of subsidizing them. I am not speaking in favor of subsidizing them or maintaining a status quo but instead I am trying to help quantify a city’s love of a team. I won’t even broach the topic of college stadiums and athletic fees but it might be one area that does have research on this topic.

The underlying flaw is that the public allows their politicians to spend their money on personal political victories.

There's no payback for politicians that waste tax money either explicitly or via tax breaks. Nor for them misstating benefits or outright lying about them.

So yea if politicians around the country are not held responsible then complaining is indeed a waste of time.


The government should be limited to provide things which are better as a monopoly like some roads or electric grid and for things that are essential and the market fails to provide from some reason. And yes, museums are not necessarily essential and in many cases should not be provided by the government but rather by a private entity.

[flagged]


This is such an absurd comment I have to counter it.

The library near me is wonderful, and my wife regularly goes there just because of how peaceful it is and how broad their e-book collection is for her bus rides. I'm in a normal no-name township, nothing particularly wealthy. Same goes for the library where I grew up, and from visits back, it's in about the same state. Volunteer work there was integral to my growing up, and accessibility to the books there was 100% of the reason I became such an avid reader.

Just because you don't like libraries, and you may have seen some bad ones, doesn't mean you should seek to remove one of the remaining bastions of government services that purely serve to better the quality of life accessible to all. (I'd cite PBS as well)

I'd say the same about museums. To abscond from a public duty to educate and provide information, we religate ourselves to the unfortunately trend of a citizenship lacking in critical thinking and inquisitiveness.

If govt spending is such a key issue, it's mind-boggling that one would focus on such trivial non-%'s as opposed to the largest allocations, of which there are MANY well-discussed inefficiencies.


Countering anecdotal experience:

I live in a wealthy (high COL, at least) area, and I see what the GP referred to.

Housing here is very expensive, ergo, living spaces are small, so I tried to go to the library to get some "real studying" done on my own time — every time the city library was slap full (all booths and chairs occupied) with 95% homeless folk.

I love and appreciate city run libraries but IME they are directly suffering from the lack of social support and affordable housing to that portion of the population.

(me: lives in West Los Angeles/Beach Cities area)


My first job was in a superb suburban library in the Midwest which was open from 9am-9pm (except on sundays which was noon-5pm).

However I now live in NYC, the city that never sleeps, and can’t believe that local libraries in Manhattan are generally open 10am-6pm making them hard for students to visit if they have extra-curricular activities and nearly impossible for anyone working to ever take advantage. The hours alone seem to indicate the libraries are mostly for the retired or unemployed.


  I'm in a normal no-name township
... which generally means it attracts fewer homeless.

You're getting heavily downvoted but at least here in san jose what you're saying is true. Many libraries are now literal homeless shelters. My wife is a librarian and her libarary just became a shelter despite the constant problems that are the homeless. She has to clean human shit off the childrens' computers but they keep inviting this mess in.

Getting rid of public funding for libraries because homeless people seek shelter there only deprives the homeless of shelter (which they have a right to, however badly they smell) and it deprives the public of the amenities public libraries provide. It doesn't solve any problems.

If so many people have such a problem with homeless people in libraries, maybe their city needs more homeless shelters that serve the same needs. I mean, they camp out under bridges and overpasses as well, should we demolish the roads too?


I didn't say anything about funding, just that in San Jose at least libraries are absolutely homeless shelters.

Fair enough, I was replying to you and the GP.

It is a bad argument against having public libraries whether it's true or not.

Plus, San Jose allows porn to be viewed on the public computers without even privacy screens.

>Maybe we should. These days, public libraries are little more than homeless shelters.

Odd, I've been in plenty of public libraries, and I've been able to access a number of useful services in them, and none have been homeless shelters, either literally or figuratively.

> and printed books are largely irrelevant in today's world anyway

No they're not, no more than movies, television, radio, or any other form of media that exists despite digital media.

Maybe your personal, limited experience doesn't scale up to a general view of human culture as well as you think it does.


Jeepers what a cruel and ill-informed person you are. As someone who works in a public library in some places the public library is the only institution left to be available for the benefit of the underrepresented folks like homeless.

Our print book circulation remains strong regardless of other electronic services we provide. There are millions of books that never get e-book versions.

Most museums and public libraries are indeed operated with non-profit organizations responsible to the local government authority (including mine).

You should get yourself into a library as soon as possible.


Libraries provide dozens of services to those in low-income areas. Lots of people utilize the library for internet service.

As it turns out, homeless people can't easily keep laptops on them and afford to hang out at Starbucks all day. Public libraries give them and other low income people opportunities to develop skills and education, and electronic resources to find a long-term career that can take them out of poverty.

If that is truly a massive trend (and it seems like it would be reasonably easy to measure), the current setup of libraries is not that conducive to employment preparation (mine still features books on Macromedia Flash and Office XP).

One can probably run it more efficiently as an Internet access room at a local community center, with access to printing/faxing/tutoring/resume building and other services.

And, just as you said, some zip codes will benefit from this setup more than others.


As it turns out, homeless people can't easily keep laptops on them and afford to hang out at Starbucks

And heck, with what happened recently, neither can Professional people who are minorities and look like they don’t belong....

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/16/arrest-of-tw...


I am sorry you have had bad experiences with public libraries. My local (suburban) public library does not resemble a homeless shelter. The population therein usually consists of younger (15-25) and older (50+) people who are generally clean and quiet. If physical books were irrelevant, publishers would all be out of business, and also the books I'm looking for in the library would never be unavailable due to already being borrowed by another user.

> public libraries are little more than homeless shelters

This was totally false at each of the five public libraries that I've visited over the last two years.


The voters have to achieve consensus that sports stadiums aren’t worth it first. Democracy doesn’t really have easy shortcuts, educating voters is hard but it has to be done.

You can’t make something illegal if the majority of voters want it. Until voters stop wanting them publicly subsidized stadiums will continue to be built.


>Democracy doesn’t really have easy shortcuts

The easy shortcut is IQ and education cannot improve it.


If you believe smart people never vote against their own interests then you're mistaken.

We'd be in agreement, and I don't believe I suggested otherwise. IQ is a predictor of success, it's not a measure of success. Groups and individuals with higher IQs tend to have better outcomes and there's about a hundred of years of research backing this up. Their involvement in successful democracies is no exception.

It's all out of hand at this point. A billion dollars to keep the community's sports team doesn't seem so harsh compared to the other companies.

A classic case of what’s popular isn’t always good policy.

Although I get the feeling that financing of sports stadiums is becoming less popular now.


It has nothing to do with popularity - it's a feature, not a bug of democratic capitalism: https://ashesashes.org/blog/episode-53-welfare-titans

In Switzerland the citizens can vote about such businesses and still they decided last to pay for a new stadium last year.

I guess you speak about the new stadium in Zürich. The government actually doesn't pay for the new stadium. The deal is that the city gives investors some land for free, where they can build the stadium. The investors also get some more land where they can build housing to get a return on there spendings. The city itself doesn't spend anything on building or maintaining the stadium.

How can I get public land in Zurich for free to build my private enterprise?

It’s a lot like dating.

You start with a common interest. Like golf. Then you invite them to party on your super-yacht. Before you know it you’ll be taking limousines to all the same $10,000 per plate charity events together and showering their non-profit-campaign-fund in ‘gifts’.


The thing is that owning a stadium is not a for profit enterprise in Switzerland as it may be the case in other countries. The investors that won the contract to build and maintain the stadium are not expected to make any money with it. Also the land that they get for housing is not free but it gets sold to them at lower than market prices (I got that wrong in my earlier comment).

Probably the thing that annoys me most about these deals is how one-sided the tenancy is. For example, an NFL team can play eight games a year in a publicly financed stadium, but if a game doesn't "sell out", then the local broadcast is blacked out. AFAIK only the NFL does this, but that's probably a function of the number/timing of games more than anything else.

NFL dropped the blackout rule three years ago. The loss in tv ad revenue outweighed the "gain" of full attendance.

As I mentioned in another reply, I totally missed that change. I think your assessment is spot on though. They did a cost-benefit analysis and realized it made more sense to lift the blackouts. It's not like they ceded the right to do so.

My preference is they should not have that right for publicly financed stadiums. Privately financed (meaning 100% private, don't ask for infra changes or anything else), then they can do what they want. Make it PPV for all I care.


You’re incorrect about NFL blackouts. Since 2015 there has been no active blackout policy in the NFL.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Football_League_telev...


I missed that change. Probably because I lived outside the market for my preferred team for so long.

I don't think this changes my assertion that the agreements are very one-sided in favor of the teams. The very fact that the NFL can make that determination for publicly financed stadiums supports my point. I have no doubt they'd flip the switch again if they thought it was financially beneficial or gave them sufficient leverage, i.e. my main point.


Its slightly better in South Australia. If the game sells out then the broadcast is live but if it does not it is delayed by adverts in between

That's pretty terrible. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't watch a game when I'm getting alerts on my phone in real time.

Perhaps cities could charge teams for the use of the cities name.

you'd probably see more regionally named teams e.g. Texas Rangers, Tennessee Titans, Golden State Warriors, Arizona Diamondbacks/Cardinals/Coyotes, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers/Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Wild... Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

The teams will probably just go elsewhere where there is no charge.

When money is going out so easily to build 7 billion dollar stadiums, it’s hard to imagine why they can’t just throw 5 billion into something like border security.

I'd suggest we be careful with the vocabulary, there exist 2 kind of stadiums: the stadium for spectacle made for filming sport related TV shows; and the stadium for the local citizens where normal people have access to sport facilities.

Please, don't throw the baby with the bathwater, even if I don't use a stadium, people will enjoy their local running track, disk throwing field or soccer field.


I don't think this warning is really necessary. Nobody's thinking of a modest local high school stadium with garden variety bleachers when they're discussing this topic.

There's an additional set of costs that begin on the day the stadium opens, and are borne by the people who live near it.

It would be nice if more cities were able to own the teams like Green Bay does but the leagues have made that impossible.

Staples Center in DTLA revitalized a previously barren part of downtown and was one of the major factors leading to the gentrification of the rest of the downtown area.

It was partially subsidized by taxpayers...


Is the author actually trying to say that taxpayers paying or stadiums is socialist?

As a Seattle sports fan, I am evidence that a lot of major American sports practice is not a democratic socialist exercise - we had a team and community anchor taken from us with zero recourse. And with what's happening in Columbus right now with the Crew has basically been a hostage situation for over a year.

It's funny that Americans love to throw around 'socialist' and 'communist' when it comes to parity and quality of play in the NFL/NBA/MLS/NHL with salary caps and strict team rules, but these clubs act like cartels. The fact that teams can at any moment be stolen or moved entirely negates any argument of social or economic return to the citizens. Now if only Bloomberg writers would wise up to the 'economic development' scams that companies like Amazon exploit, we'd actually have a better society.


> Now if only Bloomberg writers would wise up to the 'economic development' scams that companies like Amazon exploit, we'd actually have a better society.

Is anyone really not wise to this issue? I think everyone fully understands it is a race to the bottom, but people still want to win the race. Locally, people are making the best decision they can given the bargaining power they have.


I have just one word: duh.

I have been saying this forever. When we (New Yorkers) paid to redo the Yankee and Mets stadiums I was so unhappy. What a waste.



Simplest answer to all this I know of is for local and national governments to have to publish, and news outlets to report regularly on, in the same common format, P&L and balance sheet statements, including hard to measure non financial indicators like commute times.

We all need a base line to work from. We should all have the same baseline


Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, moved the team to Baltimore right after the taxpayers built them a new stadium. Even though these events happened in the mid-90's and Modell died in 2012, his name is still considered a curse word in Cleveland.

This is basically wrong, except that Modell's name is a curse word in Cleveland.

Modell announced the move, and _the_ _very_ _next_ _day_ Cleveland voters approved funding to remodel Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It didn't work, Modell still wanted to move the team. The city of Cleveland sued Modell and a bunch of other entities with the result being Cleveland retained the Browns legacy and the franchise was considered dormant for three years [0].

The upshot of the whole affair was the passage of The Art Modell Law [1] which Save The Crew supporters invoked when Precourt Sports Ventures tried to pull the same trick on the Columbus Crew.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Browns_relocation_co... [1] https://www.natlawreview.com/article/ohio-art-modell-law-sav...


Modell moved the team in 1996. The new Cleveland football stadium was built three years later for the new expansion Browns.

You might be conflating the football stadium with Jacobs Field, which was built for the Indians. (American League Baseball)

The original Browns played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium until they became the Baltimore Ravens.


Although I totally agree. The arguments here aren’t very well laid out. I feel like we got some thesis statements but no data to back anything up.

At least a stadium has some kind of use. I wish I could get my 2B back for the completely aesthetic suspension on the new bay bridge.

[flagged]


Absolutely, because externalities do not exist.

> Nothing should be subsidized

There went universal healthcare in all nations that have it. If you think the yellow vests rioting in France over a gasoline tax (among other things) are bad, just wait until you see how Europe burns to the ground over that one. In the US, Social Security has no actual lockbox ("trust fund"), it's a fraud in terms of funding; without perpetual vast subsidies, Social Security would immediately begin to collapse. Medicaid would go away instantly as an entirely subsidized program. About half the US would lose health coverage. The 44 million people in the US receiving food benefits via SNAP would lose that.

The argument is always going to be over what should be subsidized, between conflicting factions. The number of people willing to see all subsidies eliminated is practically zero for political purposes.


Those people wouldn't lose health coverage if they had enough value to afford it from their own labor. If they don't make enough to afford health care then who benefits from them being healthy/alive? I don't find the fact that they'll whine and burn things down a convincing reason to subsidize their lives. Eventually they'll burn out and without healthcare they'll stop being a problem.

You’re entitled to your opinion but maybe try to state it in a less inflammatory way.

You seem to have lived a privileged life if you cannot see the value in helping those who cannot afford it. The cost of healthcare in the US prices those people out. I hope you are never in a position to require help to get out of a bad situation. As someone who used the various programs to pull myself out of a bad situation to now making a very good living, I just can’t understand how people of your mindset don’t see that there are people like me who needed those programs to finally be able to return value to society.


If you think any social program should be subsidized, then you simply dont understand economics, youre just being fooled by politics. A politcal system that may have played to your advantage, but also disenfranchised a much greater number of people. Theres no point giving you an economics course here, But yes, in brief, the truth is everyone could afford healthcare, and true healthcare, not sub par programs, if we had a real economy. One that is not political in nature. I also come from an extremely impoverished background, and am too now doing well for myself. I work in a field that has shown me that we are literally being scammed from right under us. However know that i fully understand your incentive and i know it is a good one, you wish to give everyone equal opportunity, so i am not at all questioning youe motive as i know its genuine and well hearted, but also try to understand that you are unfortunately living in complete ignorance.

> You seem to have lived a privileged life if you cannot see the value in helping those who cannot afford it.

I was asking what that value is and afaict you are not answering it. But I'm sincerely asking, how does each individual tax payer benefit from you making a good living now such that they should have been forced to pay for you?

I was very much in a bad situation with my health while not having insurance. I couldn't get up off the floor for nearly a year due to spinal issues. I worked until I could afford to resolve the issue. Nobody else had any benefit from me surviving. Should they have had to pay for me to get surgery sooner?


I am returning in taxes much more than I ever received. It is a net gain for all who benefit from anything paid for by taxes. There are also gains in value being provided to the economy by spending. Also the money I’ve donated. And those are all monetary.

It doesn’t only help me, it helps my family and the people around me. So multiply this out to every person who turns their situation around and it’s much more than just a single person.

I’m sorry you had medical problems, but that year that you had lost productivity could’ve been quicker to recover with help. The view of “if I can do it, then so should they” is just a dark path to go down. Lack of compassion for others is no way to live.


My point was not that if I can do it so can they; I don't wish that on anybody. My question is what value tax payers realize from helping me? I suggest that there is none and if that's correct then they had no interest in helping. Forcing them to have paid for my care would have no benefit to anyone but me and the hospital that got paid.

My point is nobody should have to. You're making a mistake in looking at a single person or single entity and demanding to know why using that one data point a broad, sweeping, generalized policy is justified. It's not. Now if we step back and look at society as a whole the math is totally different.

Socialized medicine allows: (1) individuals to take bigger risks like starting a business without fearing they'd die in the process (2) afford basic care so they can go back into the workforce and continue producing value (3) treating preventable illnesses early meaning the costs are lower -- and they dont spread to more of the population (4) money isn't wasted on marketing, administration and a claims denial department lowering the total cost for everyone (5) reduction in absurd drug prices by using the collective bargaining power of state or federal entities to reduce costs for everyone (6) so many more things you could find out with some research. Not to mention you've totally disregarded the value of human life, decency and suffering. You've made a simultaneously cold, callous and invalid argument.

It's like a fire station. Why socialize fire protection? Well, fires spread.

Look it sucks what happened to you, and in a reasonable country, it wouldn't have. It's time to bring America up to the standard enjoyed by the rest of the world, not tear everyone else down to America's level.


Tyler, anyone who understands economics would know that in a true economy, you would not even have had to work at all to resolve the issue. The infinite and unfortunate truth, is that such a low amount of people actually understand anything about economics. They idiomatically and unquestionably believe that economics are to be conflated with politcs. Which is the root of the primary issue. A primary issue out of which a cyclic abundance of subsequent issues abound and are used in an ever revolving manner so as to keep what is known as the Establishment machine turning. However i have made peace in that i have recently accepted the vastly regrettable fact that the weakness and propensity for humanity as one to disillusion and misunderstand not just the most basic externalities but even those internalities surrounding our species will simply never expire.

why do they call this socialist in the first sentence and crony capitalist in the 3rd.

See the aforism "Privatizing profits and socializing losses". I think the author is saying that the costs are being socialized by having taxes fund construction and maintenance while the owners are making it happen via the mechanism of crony capitalism.

Privatizing profits is not compatible with socialism though. Not even close.

It's sloppy language to call it "socialism" but it has socialistic properties. The worst of socialism mixed with the worst of capitalism presented under both terms so people from both sides will agree.

seems kind of dumb to call anything that uses money from taxes socialist.


yes, this is clearly a case of communist-capitalism a la China and Russia; there's nothing socialist about it.
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