Fields of dreams / A closer look at publicly financed stadiums

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, January 21, 2014

…Publicly funded stadiums are a contentious issue, with proponents harping on the positive economic impact sports stadiums can bring, while critics say public funding can be better spent.

Santa Clara was lambasted recently in the media for the deal on the 49ers new stadium, which will cost around $1.3 billion. The city will kick in $116 million in public funds, but the “private” funding will come from a new entity, the Santa Clara Stadium authority, borrowing $950 million. Should something go wrong, the taxpayers will likely take the hit….

When the Cincinnati Bengals, who for decades shared a stadium with the Cincinnati Reds, put pressure on the county to build a new stadium, the county agreed to pick up the $400 million tab. But after a decade of belt tightening and budget slashing, the deal was labeled “one of the worst professional sports deals every struck by a local government,” by The Wall Street Journal….

…Long found that by 2001, the public sector, including local, state and federal governments had paid approximately $16 billion to participate in the construction of the 100 major league ballparks, stadiums and arenas currently in use. Long warns that publicly financed stadiums can be financially treacherous, and even those where private interests share in the funding, costs can quickly spiral out of control due to complex development and leasing agreements….