Today I took a drive to the Philadelphia airport and on the drive home, thanks to major construction and the worn out, pot-holed, crumbly highway, I was forced to a crawl just as I passed the relatively new South Philadelphia Stadium Complex. Where the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles and Flyers play.
I couldn’t help but notice how shiny and new and spectacular the stadiums looked…however I also couldn’t help but notice that the names on the stadiums were Citizens Bank Park Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and The Wells Fargo Center. And I also couldn’t help but notice that the surrounding neighborhoods were about as shiny and new and spectacular as the interstate highway that I was traveling on.
And that got me to wondering…Why do we almost always put sports stadiums in the worst parts of big cities where then millions of people have to travel from the suburbs to spend millions of dollars to watch millionaires play? Probably you’ll say it’s so we can get all of that money that is being spent back into the cities…but that’s just not the case
Most if not all of these stadiums are financed by the crumbling cities themselves rather than by the wealthy teams and owners and financial institutions that have their names on them. And even though banks like Wells Fargo and Citizens bank and Lincoln Financial pay millions for the naming rights, when you consider the recent trillions of dollars spent by the federal government in bailing out these banks then just about all of the money spent on these ballparks comes from…the citizens…not banks.
That’s just plain crazy.
Many politicians and proponents of these publicly financed stadiums argue that new stadiums bring new jobs and economic expansion but when new sport stadiums are financed with public money, all research has shown that the population is actually worse off economically than before the stadium.
In fact arenas and stadiums rarely live up to the promises teams, owners, and city politicians use to justify their construction. Cities are often left holding unsustainable amounts of debt because the economic development that is promised never shows up, and as a result, other services that provide more benefit to taxpayers like new roads and bridges and jobs and boring things like that are slashed to pay the bills.
Which when you think about it is insane.
Almost 40 years ago my home state of New Jersey borrowed $302 million to construct the Meadowlands and was supposed to pay off the bonds in 25 years. Today because of refinancing, and redirecting funds for other stadiums the authority that runs the Meadowlands owes $830 million…on a stadium that was just torn down.
Did you know that according to a new study from Harvard: when public-private partnerships are used to build such stadiums, taxpayers finance more than three-quarters of the investment, with teams and owners picking up just 22 percent of the tab…And every NFL franchise is today worth over 1 billion dollars!
It’s so ridiculous that it’s unbelievable!
And while our cities and infrastructures are crumbling around us we are cheering ourselves up by yelling, screaming and cavorting in the midst of abject poverty on urban oases as green as the piles of cash we spend there, named after banks that wouldn’t lend us a dollar under the very same deals and interest rates that they broker to build these coliseums.
Shouldn’t we really be building these monuments to fame and fortune in the places where they belong like Beverly Hills, Wall Street and Fort Knox?
It’s so ridiculous that it defies explanation…
But after all…that’s just how we do…isn’t it?