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Rendering of proposed Bills stadium

In all the talk of a proposed downtown Buffalo Bills stadium this week, there wasn’t enough attention paid to the fact professional sports have little impact on local economies. When you’re talking about investing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars – whether it’s $200 million to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium or $400 million to build a new stadium – it’s important to realize there’s not a huge return.

The Cato Institute found:

The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city and uilding that franchise a new stadium or arena will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city. Yet  government decisionmakers and politicians continue to try to attract professional sports
franchises to cities, or use public funds to construct elaborate new facilities in order to keep existing franchises from moving…

…one thing is clear from the evidence on professional sports franchises: owners are reaping substantial benefits in the value of their teams because they are so skilled at the stadium gambit.

Studies have found when sports are not around, people spend their money on other entertainment. When stadiums host big events, like the Super Bowl, visitors are displacing others who would have visited. Construction jobs are typically overstated. Development around stadiums is not guaranteed. Stadiums can drain local coffers to the point vital services have to cut. Recent stadium deals have been structured to allow team owners to escape hefty taxes, while the rest of us are footing the bill for their shiny new homes.

Finally, team owners threatening to move away are often not serious, according to a magnificent NPR story on stadium economics:

“Politicians continue to believe that it would be political disaster to lose a team on their watch,” Baade says.

Actually losing a team, though, is extremely rare. Most team owners prefer to keep plugging for new stadiums in their hometowns even after their bluff has been called…

…after successfully using relocation threats to get the city of Pittsburgh to help fund a new hockey arena, Penguins owner and NHL legend Mario Lemieux admitted, “Our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way. Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and other cities was just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back…. That was just a way for us to put more pressure, and we knew it would work at the end of the day.” (It’s also worth noting that even in those few cities where teams have moved, no local elected official has yet been voted out of office as a result…)

There’s no question professional sports teams add to the quality of life of a city. But when you’re talking about billion-dollar behemoths funded by taxpayers, that argument only goes so far.

Links of the Day:

Genesee Brewery has been sold.

– A Pittsford resident is quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle saying an apartment complex filled with renters could drag down the school district. Never mind these will be high-end units not filled with dreaded poor people.

– This was sadly predictable. Wegmans learned you can’t extend a school day without extra cash. Both the executives and the school district are to blame for incredibly poor planning.

– More Monroe County businesses are offering high-deductible insurance plans. This is a huge issue for employees, as one serious illness or surgery can cause severe problems for families living paycheck to paycheck or with meager savings.

– CNN has banned the term “Frankenstorm” because it makes light of a storm that’s already killed people.

19 Responses to Stadiums Don’t Add Up

  1. October 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm Edward Richards responds:

    This school thing is a big deal. A new stadium should be built in…Irondequoit.

  2. October 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm Steve Clidas responds:

    Please stop mangling the language. The plural of stadium is STADIA, not stadiums. Since stadium is of Latin origin, the Latin plural is grammatically correct.

    It is truly sad to see the deterioration of literacy; sloppy language use is particularly rampant in western NY. As a journalist, you have a responsibility to lead by example.

  3. Personally, I will never understand the rational of taxpayer funded arenas or stadiums. It should be illegal. How can you pay a player millions a year and then ask the taxpayer to fund your team. I have been a season ticket holder for the Bill’s for over 25 years and a Amerk season ticket holder in the past. I like sports. But I do not support funding the stadiums. As for the proposal in Buffalo downtown, don’t waste your time discussing this. It will never be considered by the NFL or the Bills. ( they are moving to LA in two years )

  4. October 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm Steve M. responds:

    It is perfectly acceptable to make a public expenditure on a stadium, if that is what the people want. If the people like sports and want a nice stadium to visit, then let the people’s representatives or a public referendum approve these measures and then they can pay those taxes.

    It’s majority rule.

    Frankly, I don’t care if it is an economic boon or not, the point is do the people want to have it or not? The same would be true for any institution of entertainment that might be publicly funded, like a museum or a concert hall for an orchestra.

    If you hate sports, then don’t vote for it and tell your representatives NOT to support it. If they go against your will, then don’t vote for them.

    How is this an issue, Rachel? This article sounds like you have a problem with sports more than stadiums… It’s the will of the people that matters here!

    • October 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm RaChaCha responds:

      Reread the post, and nope, not finding any sports-hatred there. Looks like Rachel is just trying to bring some additional, germaine information to the media Frankenstorm (sorry, CNN) of publicity over this.

      About majority rule: sometimes people support or don’t support something based on all-too-scanty information. What’s the harm of bringing more information to the mix–? We’re all adults here (presumably), and can sift & sort through information and ultimately come to our own conclusions.

      If that’s OK with you.

  5. October 27, 2012 at 9:56 am Orielly responds:

    The biggest issue is not the funding of stadiums, its the threat to move every 5 yrs if the owners don’t get what they want. And its not just the small market teams like Buffalo etc but look at NYC and the Jersey Giants and Jets.
    I have posted before the NFL is monopoly allowed by law to exist. We should have laws that protect taxpayers who fund stadiums. Black out rules, can’t move without failing attendance metrics etc. all set to benefit the taxpayer. If not, then it should be illegal to fund an NFL team anywhere.

  6. I am so glad Rochester does not have a major league sports team.

  7. October 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm RaChaCha responds:

    Speaking of entities that threaten to pick up their marbles and walk away from the game if they don’t get their own way: the sale of the Genesee Brewery. Unless I’m mistaken, the previous owners threatened to invest elsewhere unless they were given permission to demolish a building on the site.

    So let me make sure I’ve got this right: they got their way and took down the building. And now they’re selling the brewery–? Does that mean they wanted the building down to make the brewery more saleable when they walked away–? And does it mean that if the demolition had been held up a few more months, it might not have happened–?


  8. October 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm Edward Richards responds:

    Right, just like opera house, new buildings, perf arts center, hotels…for people. Cant think of anything that ud get more people talking than ( fantasy) football.

  9. October 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm Edward Richards responds:

    That’s right , this is a fantasy football stadium.

  10. October 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    the arrogance of the privite sector[wegmens] in regards to teachers and public schools is astonishing. why would danny wegmen says he wants to lend his expertise and guidence in helping the northeast prepatory run a longer school day.

    it takes a fertile imgination to believe running a super market could some how translate into teaching or running a school.

    the republican belief that goverment is so bad that it needs to be drowned in a bath tub borders on treason and anarcory.

  11. The idea of extending the school day was silly. There is no evidence that a longer school day helps learning. These reformers who make their own rules and demand reaseach based curriculum usually begin and end their ideas with a lack of reaseached anything. As for the Bills, the team isn’t worth much any more, is that common in cities with decling population? Ithink stadiums fail to help the community because they are self contained and people go in and out without interacting in the community. We need to stop funding these stadiums.

  12. Except, of course, that the threat of the Bills moving away is very very real, because the team /will/ be sold when Ralph Wilson dies. It’s not just an idle threat to get more money. Ralph doesn’t need it, and his kids don’t want the team at all. There’s no one here who would be executing any kind of money grab.

  13. November 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm Pat Freeman responds:

    Unfortunately your article does not apply to the Multi use Complex being proposed by the Greater Buffalon Sports and entertainment Complex. This is a Multi use project which would only be used by the professional franchise 13% of the time. 87% of the time it will be used year for a variety of events from conventions, trade shows , and special events . Plus a hotel conference center,Retail shops and a museum. So your assertion probably is correct but just does not apply to this proposal.

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