If you missed it this Sunday, Last Week Tonight's John Oliver did a fine job of explaining exactly why the taxpayers in cities across the country should not be subsidizing these extravagant stadiums, even though our politicians continue to cave into their threats to move their teams every time one of them wants a new stadium built.
American sports stadiums are replaced and renovated at a shocking rate, as John Oliver documented Sunday on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight."
In the last two decades, he said, 90 percent of U.S. sports stadiums have been rebuilt — on the dime of local taxpayers. Some $12 billion was spent on 51 new luxury facilities between 2000 and 2010 alone, according to Oliver.
“Sports teams are wealthy businesses with wealthy owners and they still get our help,” Oliver said.
One example: Oliver said that six days after Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the Red Wings hockey team received approval for $280 in taxpayer money for a new arena. He pointed out that the owner, Little Caesar's founder Mike Ilitch, is worth $5.1 billion.
"That's a little hard to swallow," Oliver said. "Not as hard to swallow as a Little Caesar's crazy bread with an assortment of Caesar dips — but still pretty hard."
According to Oliver, teams not only receive taxpayer-funded facilities, but they also often get to keep the income from stadium naming rights, concessions, luxury boxes, and non-sports events held on the property. The Florida Marlins’ owner framed it candidly: “That’s the whole object of this, is to get more revenue.”
Think Progress did a nice follow up to Oliver's segment discussing just where that money could have gone instead: 7 Things We Could Have Spent $12 Billion On Instead Of New Sports Stadiums:
It’s no secret that the professional sports industry is massive and lucrative. When you combine tens of thousands of screaming fans packed into an arena with $10 beers and $50 pre-game parking, it’s hardly a surprise that professional teams bring in some serious revenue.↓ Story continues below ↓
However, while teams are raking in the big bucks, their stadiums, facilities, and property bills are often being footed by the taxpayers, with little revenue actually returning to the community. According to a 2012 analysis from the Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities cited in Sunday’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment, these widely under-recognized expenditures are huge, adding up to a whopping $12 billion in public funds for 51 new sports facilities around the country between 2001 and 2010. In Wisconsin alone, Gov. Scott Walker (R) cut $250 billion from universities to pay for half the cost of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
And the exorbitant spending didn’t stop there. As GOP candidates raise concerns over tax funding for programs such as Obamacare provisions and SNAP food programs, millions of dollars are still pouring into athletic construction projects. Just last month, presidential hopeful Walker announced plans for a new $500 million stadium for the Bucks. These renovations follow in the footsteps of the 2013 construction of Miami’s Marlins Park, which also received the same nine-figure approval in county funding — leaving only 20 percent of the budget to be organized through other means.
Taking note of these spending abuses, the Obama administration announced a budget proposal earlier this year which would prohibit tax exemptions currently allowing cities and states to call on federal tax funds to subsidize sports facility construction projects. But for now, tax dollars continue to filter out of government budgets and into the hands of lucrative sports franchises.
Go read the rest for their list of where that money could have been spent. It wouldn't take long to come up with another fifty examples that would have actually benefited the taxpayers in these cities rather than giving millionaires and billionaires corporate welfare.