No Tax Dollars For Stadium

“We have to come to our senses and stop signing these deals.” John Oliver’s takedown of America’s publicly-funded stadium scam has been viewed over 7,000,000 times since 2015, and yet not one member of the Providence Journal editorial board seems to have had the time.

I had hoped that they would avail themselves of the expertise of Victor Matheson, professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross, who has been studying this for over 10 years and made a comprehensive presentation to the public back to 2015 (RI Future).

There is, “remarkable agreement among economists finding that spectator sports result in little or no measurable economic benefits on host cities,” said Matheson, pointing out that money spent on such ventures is then not spent on other things a city needs. (Such as infrastructure, school repair and Medicaid, I will point out.)

Matheson then went on to explain how modern stadiums, unlike Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago, are not centers of economic activity that benefit surrounding businesses. Instead, modern sports stadiums are self contained oases surrounded by parking. The restaurants and amenities are not located throughout the city but within the stadium itself, generating revenue for the stadium owners, not the city.

Go here to watch the presentation. There are even aerial photographs of the economic development NOT taking place around the new stadiums. (Thank you Steve Ahlquist of RI Future.) And yet in a recent editorial (ProJo 2.5.17) the board suggests otherwise, using very vague language.

Virtually all new Triple-A parks include some public investment, since parks are seen as engines of economic growth and superb cultural amenities, and are advertisements for a region’s vitality. They tend to be centers of civic activity, including charitable endeavors.

A new park could potentially help revive a mill city that has been down on its heels for decades. The ideal location would be: conducive to neighborhood development; in close walking distance from a new Pawtucket railroad station; and in sight of Route 95, which would advertise it to the public and make it easily accessible.

. . . are seen as? . . . could potentially?” Stop guessing! Huge financial commitments should be based on facts, statistics, and studies. (Also, please read up on the costly Hartford Yard Goats debacle.) Maybe the board has been dazzled with promises of bottle service in the luxury boxes but this is taxpayer money we’re talking about.

People are starting to wise up. Lawmakers in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are working on an interstate compact, an agreement not to subsidize a new Redskins football stadium.

Boston Red Sox executives came to town recently for a confab (ProJo). Club president Sam Kennedy thought it would be just dandy if a AAA-affiliated stadium were as similar in dimension as possible to Fenway Park — McCoy has 10,000 seats while Fenway seats over 37,000 — but Kennedy wanted one thing understood, “We don’t underwrite the PawSox.” Then why should we?

And to those who bemoan the swampy McCoy location, please tell me . . . what is a fen?

1 thought on “No Tax Dollars For Stadium”

  1. John McGrath

    A fen is a boggy. water logged squishy area near a river or stream. There is a stream in the Fenway which extends far beyond the Fenway area.

    Providence was ready to waste a precious bit of real estate, once targeted as a park and tech industry area. In other words they wanted to create an economic desert where new businesses would thrive because of the amenities popular with techies: the park, ability to walk across the bridge to clubs and restaurants, the ability to walk home (there would be new pat buildings). Some big tech names have already committed to locating major facilities in the area now that the Providence stadium deal has fallen apart. No public money for this new nonsense. The problem is that RI politicos think they can make themselves bask in the popularity of the Red Sox by wasting money in this way. They do NOT get it.

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