The Stadium controversy as a national bellwetherBy
As New York, the center of the known universe, prepares to open two baseball stadiums in a few months, urban policy gurus and baseball economists have put the city and its stadium financing deals under a microscope. Meanwhile, with the U.S. economy in a deep recession, the national construction boom has all but ground to a halt.
Enter Maury Brown and The Biz of Baseball. In a multi-part series on Brown’s site, Pete Toms has explored the issues surrounding stadium construction and financing. Part I explored how stadium construction plans are couched in terms of mixed-use development. Part II examined how the current state of the U.S. economy has left the new Busch Stadium an island in an uncompleted and unfunded ballpark village. Yesterday, Part III hit the Internet.
In it, Toms looks at the impact the recession will have on stadium financing. Toms predicts that of the three major sports teams awaiting approval for stadium financing and construction — Nets, Marlins, A’s — at least one of those teams will never get its new home and the others may have to wait a while. With the Atlantic Yards plan in shambles, the Nets fit the bill, but I don’t think the Marlins and A’s will be enjoying new digs anytime soon.
Anyway, my main point in bringing up this informative series is to look at one of Toms’ takeaways from the ongoing debate at the Yankee Stadium financing. He writes:
The unprecedented attention brought to the issue of “public dollars for private stadiums” in the political and media battle over the new Yankee Stadium might be remembered as the tipping point in this debate. Is public financing/ funding of stadiums for billionaire owners and millionaire players now too politically contentious to risk?
It’s a very interesting question and one that will have no answer until another team owned by a billionaire — Lew Wolff’s money in Oakland comes to mind — attempts to procure a high amount of public funds. It is not, however, surprising that when New York came to the forefront of the national stadium debate that has been brewing off to the sidelines for the better part of the last fifteen years, something conclusive came out of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong; despite my opposition to the latest round of bonds, positive infrastructure contributions can come out of stadium constructions projects. But there should be a limit to the amount of money teams get for their single-use facilities. If that is the final contribution the Yanks’ stadium story made to this national debate, anti-public financing advocates may just be able to claim victory yet.