Posted: 8:35 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013
By Neal Boortz
Oh goodie! Here we go again! Tell me if you’ve heard this little ditty before:
You have a multi-millionaire (maybe even a billionaire, but who’s counting) owner of a major league sports franchise deciding that he could make a lot more money if he just had a new stadium for his team. The last thing he wants to do, however, is to build his stadium with his own money. After all, it’s not like he owns a string of auto dealerships. Auto dealers are notorious for building their facilities with their own money. No! This guy owns a sports franchise, and that means the people should be so grateful for his presence in their community that they will reach deep into their own pockets – even their kids lunch money – just to keep their favorite team in town.
Soooooo … sooner or later the team owner is going to float some nail-the-taxpayer balloons. Instead of standing out there on his own and demanding taxpayer funds, however, he will usually use a politician to carry this water for him. Maybe the mayor! Yeah! That would do just fine! After all, a brand new shiny state-of-the-are stadium can be an important part of a mayor’s legacy! For years the stadium will be referred to as a marvel of the modern world “built during the tenure of Mayor Blabbidy Blah.”
How does the politician sell the public on the idea of financing the team owners new place of business? Two ways: First, you tell the taxpayers that the stadium is going to be a tremendous economic boom to the community. Secondly, sooner or later you’re going to darkly suggest that if the taxpayers don’t pony up the team is going to move to another city that will soak its taxpayers.
Yup! That’s the leak today from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office. If we don’t build the new stadium using boatloads of taxpayer money, the Falcons may move to Los Angeles.
Know this: With California’s business and tax climate (a 13.3% state income tax on folks like Arthur Blank) there is no way in hell anyone with a still-functioning brain is going to move a team to Los Angeles. Businesses are moving OUT of California and Los Angeles, not IN.
You also need to know that all of the grand words and promises about the economic impact of new sports stadiums are vastly overstated. Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College and a leading sports economist, has said "Generally speaking the independent research suggests that we can't anticipate any economic impact" from sports teams and stadiums. . . . .
Robert Baade is a sports economist. Baade found "no significant difference in personal income growth from 1958 to 1987 between 36 metropolitan areas that hosted a team in one of the four premier professional sports leagues and 12 otherwise comparable areas that did not." The authors' conclusion: Arenas put a drag on the local economy by hurting spending on other activities in the city and boosting municipal costs such as security. OK … the study may be a bit old, but stadiums were quite a bit less expensive then. How can this situation be improved by multiplying the cost of a new stadium?
There’s another recognized expert on the subject, Roger Noll, an economics professor at Stanford University. Noll has found that when it comes to new jobs, yes … building a new stadium using taxpayer funds will create new jobs .. but at great cost. Remember Camden Yards in Baltimore? Noll’s study found that every job created by that stadium cost about $125,000 to create. Other Baltimore redevelopment programs managed to create jobs for about $6,000 a pop.
Noll has a suggestion that Mayor Reed might want to consider. If you really want to improve Atlanta’s economy just go up in a helicopter and start throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars out the window. I can help. I don’t have a helicopter --- but my Mooney has a small window. Glad to be of service.
Mr. Blank? Love you, mean it, and I’m a great admirer of the Home Depot success story created by you and Bernie Marcus. Love the Falcons too! But a responsible businessman does not use the police power of government to seize money from private citizens to build their place of business.