About that Stadium

Just about everything that is wrong with the discussion about the Miami Dolphins’ attempt to hold up the taxpayers of Miami-Dade county for a giant bit of corporate welfare is visible from the first sentence of Sunday’s Miami Herald story on the leadtrial balloon:

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to seek voter approval of tax dollars for Sun Life Stadium, with team executives dropping their objections to a referendum on the controversial plan, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The Dolphins have “agreed” to let voters be consulted directly! Get that? We can’t have a referendum unless they agree? It’s as if Miami-Dade were negotiating with another sovereignty — a county in Texas, or a country in South America. Next if we are lucky we will read that Dolphins have “agreed” to follow certain locals laws that they happen to approve of.

Sorry guys. Taxpayer-funded stadiums are just about always a bad idea. Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Owners game the system, pitting municipalities against each other, and abandoning cities that don’t subsidize them … and sometimes abandoning those that subsidize them if some other town makes a better taxpayer-subsidized offer.
  • The economics behind the supposed financial benefits is highly suspect: mostly they do not exist. See Dennis Coats & Brad Humphreys, The Stadium Gambit and Local Economic Development, 23:2 Regulation 15 (2000). In any case, there are many other capital improvements one could make with that kind of money that would show a much larger return. (The right question isn’t “will this show a benefit” but rather “compared to what”.)
  • In addition to the teams’ multi-millionaire (or billionaire) owners, the big winners are the corporations and .1%ers who get to use the skyboxes added to the stadium.
  • Ticket prices to the events are beyond the means of many of the very taxpayers who have to pay for the project.

In addition to those generic problems, this particular stadium upgrade, now, is a super-bad idea for these extra reasons:

  • To whatever limited extent the area will benefit from increased tourism revenue, Broward county will get about half the benefit — but the savvy authorities in Broward have said they won’t pay a penny (and there will be no referendum there, either!).
  • Super Bowl weekend will overlap the Boat Show, when hotels are sold out anyway. Not only will there be no extra benefit to the area in terms of occupancy but there will be chaos. I suppose there may also be price gouging, which might feel like a benefit to the hoteliers in the short run, but that just risks driving the Boat Show away in the long run.
  • Our elected officials can’t be trusted to negotiate a decent deal — or to ensure taxpayers benefit from any profits.

This proposal is worse than socialism: in Miami we socialize the (high) costs of stadiums, but privatize the benefits.

Here’s a modest proposal: How about, as a condition of any proposal that we pay for this turkey, we require that 15% of the tickets — including some of the good seats — be given away free by lottery (limited to local taxpayers) for every home game?

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One Response to About that Stadium

  1. Just me says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Sports socialism drives me bananas. I like sports as much as the next guy, but pro sports is not a noble civic cause to which my tax dollars should be lent. For heaven’s sake, there are pot holes that need fixing, crime that needs solving, and poverty that needs addressing. And these clowns want tax dollars that should be going to those issues to be diverted to subsidize an extremely lucrative private enterprise (http://www.businessinsider.com/sports-chart-of-the-day-nfl-revenue-still-dwarfs-other-major-sports-2012-10)? Give me a break!

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