That’s How We Do: Juxta-Posers

15 Mar

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.  

That’s nuts!

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Responses to “That’s How We Do: Juxta-Posers”

  1. Harold Knight March 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Some realities of American culture are simply to painful to think about, but thank you for writing about them so well.

  2. Harold Knight March 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    “TOO painful”

  3. GiRRL_Earth March 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Well said.

  4. TechChucker March 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I don’t always see eye to eye on your opinions, but on this I have to agree. My home state of Minnesota has gone into a deal with the Vikings for a new stadium. I just don’t understand why the city and state has to give these teams money for a building.

    What I do know, is teams are holding cities and states hostage by telling them they will leave if they don’t get the deal they want. I say, let em go. Are we so fickle and so blind that we’ll let our allegiance to a sports team dictate our financial decision making?

    Let a team move enough times and see just how profitable they continue being. Call some of these teams on their bluff.

    The city or state should take care of the roads but have little to no financial responsibility for the building itself. These teams do make enough money to build these buildings. And perhaps they don’t need to be replaced as often. Build them better in the first place and they’ll last more than 25 years.

  5. Jae March 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m with you on this one. If a sports team wants a stadium, they can build it with their own money. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to the city charging them a fee to build on the land and then monthly or yearly rent for using that land.Or maybe they can get a rent discount for letting the city use it for other events. But yeah, the last thing we need to do is build stadiums when a city is suffering. Thanks for posting this.

  6. W E Patterson March 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    We certainly saw what you are describing down here in Miami, with the construction of the new Marlins stadium on the old Orange Bowl grounds. By the way, the stadium is beautiful, both inside and out, but the infrastructure of the city around it is in decline. It is sad commentary on what we consider to be of value today.

  7. beretolsen March 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    I mostly agree with you. I think it is ludicrous that cities are held hostage (as Techchucker pointed out)…and that the citizens are left to foot the bill. On the other hand, when the San Francisco Giants were at Candlestick Park, I was teaching in a public school basically next door–at the outskirts of Bayview/Hunters Point. There were no big grocery stores, no restaurants, no stores of any kind, and very little hope. What they had was the team. And the students and their families were the most avid fans I had seen. The Giants, in turn, came and read to our classes, gave us tickets to attend, held essay contests for the students, and took the winners to lunch in a limousine. Now that the Giants have a lovely stadium in downtown SF, it works more smoothly, I’m sure. Public transit is set up well, and there are lots of businesses thriving in the surrounding area. But the kids in Bayview have been forgotten, as far as I can tell.

  8. beretolsen March 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Just to clarify, it’s not that the billions of dollars were balanced by a little community service…but I do think the sports teams can be tapped in ways that can really make a difference in the crappy parts of town.

  9. jcmarckx2009 March 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    This is a real point of contention with the Sacramento Kings. We still don’t know where the Kings will end up next year, but I do know this; NOBODY wants to pay for a new arena. Not the owners, not the city, and not the NBA. Actually, I am pretty sure that the citizens of Sacramento will agree to any deal that involves the Maloofs going away!

  10. The Contractors Wife March 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    This is a great post. I was contemplating writing a vent about our own small town. I live in ‘hockeyville’ Canada. We have the worst roads you have ever seen in your life. I’m not talking just pot holes, I’m talk full out sink holes that my new F-150 almost flips over in. The spring thaw only brings huge massive new cracks and holes with concrete scattered over the road. But don’t worry, it matters not for we have a brand new huge hockey arena, fitted with a pool and three rinks!!! Worth millions of dollars. But we can’t afford to fix our own roads and our children suffer. You just can’t teach a 4 year old how to ride a tricycle in the middle of a pot hole……..

  11. kympocalypse March 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    We are having a similar dilemma with a franchise we are in danger of LOSING if we don’t upgrade the stadium. Meanwhile, the rest of my city is slowly dying and literally crumbling brick by brick.

  12. momshieb March 16, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    Great post!
    I think this is just the most egregious example of how public money constantly financed private enterprise. In Massachusetts, big firms are always getting public funds (sometimes in the form of direct funding, sometimes in the form of tax breaks) to build big, shiny new corporate offices, pharmaceutical companies, banks….
    Meanwhile, we can’t fix the schools that are literally crumbling down on the heads of our kids.

  13. Anne Chia March 16, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Definitely food for thought. It seems so much money is pushed into sports programs,even in schools,to the detriment of academia itself;shiny sports facilities,broken and un replaced beakers in the Science lab, more jerseys for the Football teams,fewer books that do not go round in the classrooms. The world certainly needs to re-prioritise.

  14. TamrahJo March 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    “While under siege, the citizens of Rome continued to attend events at the Coliseum, though they were literally starving – during one event (the execution of criminals) the crowd starting asking, “How much per pound do you want for that meat?” – The Dark Ages, 410 AD, The Sacking of Rome

    I see eerie similarities between us and Rome – for instance, long before the sacking, Rome had been unable to adequately pay its’ soldiers for a long time – – Hmmmm….the similarities are stacking up – – –

  15. huntmode March 17, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Well written! Someone above also mentioned the tax breaks given – I don’t mind that so much provided the business brings jobs, etc., but I find the urge to tear down before payoff insane.

  16. continuousdrawing March 18, 2013 at 5:01 am #

    The problem begins with the wrong question: How to create jobs? A better question would be what do we as citizens really need? Then put citizens in jobs that fulfill their fundamental needs. We need better food, less work hours, more real education less mindless entertainment, we need to feel productive, playful, creative, useful and also that our contribution is valuable not just in dollars but as a part of a healthy community. We don’t need job training which is doomed to obsolesence and endlessly puts humans in slavery in cubicles or in factories or farms for things they don’t really need.

  17. alesiablogs March 19, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Great conversation starter I see! You don’t even want to get me started. So pissed off how our children may go to broken schools , but we can build big f&$@( stadiums.

  18. 'Becca March 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    This is so true! Here in Pittsburgh, in the late 1990s we had a referendum on whether to tear down Three Rivers Stadium (which was not yet paid off) and build two new ones, or not. It was voted down by more than 2 to 1. So the mayor pulled off some kind of scheme by which we didn’t get a choice but had to give public financing to the project. It’s been an enormous financial burden for the city.

    The only good thing I (not a sports fan) can say about the stadiums is that last year–more than a decade after they were completed–the light rail transit was extended to the North Shore to provide better transportation to the games. This happens also to provide much easier, nicer public transit access than before to the museums on the North Side. Since these museums charge for parking, and since driving on the urban-renewal-snarled North Side is confusing, my family is very happy to have the light rail there.

    Recently, the Penguins also got a new facility. Last week I read that they have not yet even set up plans for the redevelopment of the old site that they’d promised to do as a condition of getting their public financing. Sigh!! The area where they’re located (new arena right near the old site, just east of Downtown) was decimated in the 1960s to build the old arena–thousands of poor mostly black people forced out of their homes–and that situation has never really been properly resolved.

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