Time to Stop Taxpayer Funding for Sports Stadiums

Barry Ritholtz is a bottom-line kind of guy. Best known as an influential blogger whose popularity earned him a slot writing articles at Bloomberg, the investment adviser recently weighed in on a topic near and dear to me: the sheer waste of taxpayer money that local politicians “invest” in professional sports stadiums to host teams owned by billionaires. Here’s Barry:

Your tax dollars are being wasted, on an enormous scale, by uncompetitive socialist enterprises that ignore the basic rules of economics.

I refer, of course, to the practice of politicians who give taxpayer dollars to subsidize the business of sports by paying for the construction and/or renovation of stadiums and arenas. These exercises in crony capitalism make no sense whatsoever. There has never been a decent reason to subsidize these successful businesses, which rarely produce a real return on the public’s investment. Nor is civic pride a justification.

The bottom line here is very simple: The cost of building and maintaining these facilities should be borne by the people who attend these events via their ticket purchases, and not the people of an entire state and/or metropolitan region, the vast majority of whom will never set foot inside these enormously costly structures.

This was brought into focus once again by a recent New York Times column, which looked at the five sports stadiums and six sports arenas within 60 miles of midtown Manhattan, with a combined 335,271 seats. Of the total cost of $7.5 billion, taxpayers provided more than a third, or about $2.75 billion. That’s about $8,200 per seat.

That’s a lot to pay for a seat in a stadium, which if we’re talking about professional football, will see only eight home games in a season. If the team that plays in the stadium is like the New York Jets, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010, that’s a lot of expensive seats sitting completely empty on most of the other 357 days of the year.

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Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org.

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