What price could a city government place on its citizens’ love for their sports teams?Now the Brooklyn arena, as well as the two new baseball stadiums, have relatively less direct subsidy than many other deals.
The answer is that public funding for new sports stadiums should be up to voters to decide. Cities should make sure the public has access to independent evaluations of the costs and benefits of building a stadium -- not just the inflated “economic-impact studies” done at the behest of team owners and publicized in the media. It should also be made clear exactly what other subsidies the sports teams will be getting: from cheap loans to cheap rent to cheap land.
Finally, in structuring a deal, cities should strive to use fees -- such as surcharges on tickets -- that place more of the cost on those who actually use the facilities, and the city’s share of the cost should, as much as possible, be dedicated to associated public-works improvements that will have benefits beyond game day. Most importantly, the teams should shoulder the heaviest financial burden in any deal.
If, confronted by an honest cost-benefit analysis, citizens vote to pay more in taxes or forgo other civic improvements, then, by all means, give them their retractable domes, their plasma TVs and their years of expensive enjoyment.
But they didn't need it. They get indirect subsidies, access to sponsors in the nation's biggest media market, and other revenue opportunities.
The city government--hello, Mr. Bloomberg--produced and embraced cost-benefit analyses for the arena that differed significantly from that produced by the NYC Independent Budget Office.
And there was never a vote.