Taxpayers and the Sports Teams They Bankroll

A really interesting post at the Supersonicsoul blog about the predicament with the ‘Sonics, specifically in reference to team being, more or less, extorted into renovating KeyArena. Pete Nussbaum writes:

The argument these stadiums/teams produce economic benefits is provably false, so the only argument can be that we as fans want others to pay for our fun. Sorry, folks, but I won’t play that game, because that makes us no better than Bennett, Schultz, Stern, and all of their ilk – and, in fact, makes us co-conspirators in an extortion scheme. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

While the closest I’ve ever gotten to even watching a Supes game on television was during a bar scene in Shadowrun (yes, I know that I am a huge dork), the entire situation in Seattle concerns me.

I spent a few years living in nearby Greensboro, and managed to catch the minor league baseball team in action a few times. The Grasshoppers (previously the Bats, a much cleverer name, if you ask me) played at the World War Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1926. It was a grand old ball park, and I loved the ambience.

The team didn’t dig their duds, though, and in a bid to qualify for double-A status, they pushed for a new stadium. And Greensboro gave it to them. At a cost of around $21.5 million. A downtown ballpark would boost foot traffic, revitalize the city center, etc.

The KeyArena is unique in that it is one of the few publicly funded sports venues that actually supports itself with revenue. If the NBA gets its way, however, the city of Seattle will need to pony up about $180 million in renovations or they’ll lose their basketball team. There’s no way that a sports arena can recoup those costs.

That is, of course, where the Seattle and Washington taxpayers will come in. If, like Greensboro decided, they vote to foot the bill, then their tax money will be funnelled into a stadium that has no chance of ever returning their investment.

Sports investors have really discovered a fine racket here, don’t you think? Maybe one day people will realize it. I love sports as much as the next guy, but I’ll be rooting for my childrens’ school systems and new sidewalks and whatnot over wireless internet for Ray Allen. He’s got an $80 million contract. He can foot the fucking bill.


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