Professional sports are a cash cow these days, with billionaires owning teams, and finding ways to get richer and richer off of them in the process. The cost of attending a sporting event is through the roof, and good luck if you’re a fan of a good team in a major market – have you looked at the price of Cubs or Yankees tickets lately?
Even worse is when the billionaires find a way to make the taxpayers – the ones who pay for the chance to attend the games – fund brand new, multi-million-dollar stadiums. History has shown that these government deals with the team owners never work out well for the taxpayers, but they still keep happening anyway. We took a look at the worst stadium deals from the point of view of the taxpayer, who have routinely been stuck with the bill while the team owners rake in all of the rewards.
7. The Raiders’ Stadium in Las Vegas
The Oakland Raiders were looking for a new home, and the city of Las Vegas was desperate to attract an NFL team. That was a dangerous combination. When private investors pulled out of a stadium deal that was viewed as unwise, putting a gigantic football stadium likely right next to the airport near a heavily traveled highway, the city went ahead and put the bill on the taxpayers.
When Sheldon Adelson withdrew his support, which would’ve covered $650 million of the $1.9 billion project, the government chipped in $750 million in taxpayer dollars – a professional sports record. It’s hard to see how this pays off in favor of the residents of Las Vegas, but at least they’ll get eight NFL games per season.
6. Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis
This one falls into the category of “It’s so sad it’s almost funny.” The St. Louis Rams left town to move to Los Angeles, beginning with the 2016 NFL season. In their wake, the Rams and team owner X X have a stunned city of St. Louis – the Rams’ home since the 1995 season – and a 20-year-old football stadium in the Edward Jones Dome.
The part that really hurts is that the taxpayers still had around $100 million remaining to pay on the bill for the stadium, which now primarily hosts concerts, soccer, and college sports. The payment grows even larger for the residents when you factor in the $500,000 rent payment that left with the Rams. The citizens of St. Louis still have their beloved Cardinals, but during the winter you’re out of luck if you aren’t a hockey fan.
5. US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis
There is no debating whether the Minnesota Vikings needed a new home stadium. Heck, the roof caved in on the one they were playing in previously. It was time for it to happen. But the $1.1 billion project to build US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis came with a major tax on the residents of Minnesota; about $348 million.
The state’s share of the bill actually is around $616 million when you include interest over the next three decades. Minneapolis alone is covering $150 million of that, and the total burden on the taxpayer is estimated at $631 million. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a brand new football stadium.
4. The new Texas Rangers ballpark
Although it hasn’t been built yet, the new Texas Rangers ballpark is going to be an insane burden on the taxpayers. But let’s backtrack for a second. Why do the Rangers, who have played in Globe Life Park (previously known as The Ballpark in Arlington) since it opened in 1994, need a brand-new stadium? Their old one isn’t even 25 years old yet and has every modern amenity that fans would want.
The sales pitch that the Rangers put on the residents is that they need a retractable roof for those muggy Texas days. The voters approved the deal, which is estimated to put an astronomical $1.6 billion in cost onto the taxpayers over the next 30 years. But enjoy your retractable roof, right?
3. The new Milwaukee Bucks’ stadium
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s theory on government is a “slash the budget and no handouts” sort of style. So it was curious when Walker slashed $250 million from Wisconsin’s higher education budget – inevitably raising costs on college kids – only to turn around and give that same total in a handout to billionaire hedge fund managers for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium.
It was gutsy of Walker to be so blunt and clear in his priorities, but it runs counter to what he would tell his constituents is his political belief. Not only has this move made Walker one of the more unpopular governors in the United States, but it has saddled Wisconsin’s shrinking middle class with the bill for a stadium that makes rich people even richer.
2. SunTrust Field in Atlanta
The Atlanta Braves moved into their beautiful, brand-new stadium this year. SunTrust Park replaces Turner Field, which was built in 1997 and was home to the Braves for just 20 years. Ignoring the fact that the Braves really didn’t need a new stadium at all, they also strong-armed the local politicians into what is being regarded as one of the worst stadium deals in history.
The park is estimated to cost the taxpayers somewhere in the vicinity of $400 million in total, all so that the team can have a state of the art palace in the suburbs. The deal actually took away $40 million that had been earmarked for new parks in Atlanta, forcing the residents to have to deal with a tax increase if they want their parks money back. It’s just the first year, and already this situation is ugly.
1. Marlins Park in Miami
Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is a con man. Loria signed players such as Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to big contracts, and brought in manager Ozzie Guillen to draw more fan interest and help sell the public on funding around 80 percent of the bill for his new ballpark. Shortly after Marlins Park opened in 2012, Loria cast Buehrle, Reyes, and Guillen aside and slashed the payroll.
Even worse is that the $600 million owed by the county – and thus, the taxpayers – on Marlins Park actually ends up closer to $2.4 billion over the course of 40 years. It’s not all bad news for baseball fans in southern Florida, however. Loria is currently in the process of attempting to sell the team, which might actually mean an owner that cares more about winning than making a quick buck. Although, the relatively new taxpayer funded ballpark will likely help earn Loria a pretty penny on the sale.