When Your Return On Investment Doesn’t

As a resident of the Twin Cities I’ve recently suffered the bullshit spewed by stadium advocates. When the local handegg team started whining about wanting an even bigger stadium the smart people said it was a stupid idea and the stupid people said it was a smart idea. The stupid side claimed the stadium will bring a huge boost to the local economy. People from around the country will supposedly flock to the new stadium where they wouldn’t have come to the old stadium (apparently handegg fans travel to games for the buildings, not to watch the teams). This, in turn, will flood local eateries, convenience stores, hotels, and every other business with patrons. And that will lead to a flood of tax revenue (handegg fans also seem to think tax revenue is a meritorious thing). Since everybody will benefit, they claim in spite of facts, the stadium should be at least publicly funded.

One issue never touched by stadium advocates is what happens when the breadwinning team decides to leave? That’s the question denizens of St. Louis are probably wishing they had asked themselves before they built their shiny new stadium:

The St. Louis Rams’ decision to relocate to Los Angeles brought a double dose of bad news for the city’s residents on Tuesday: Not only are they losing the football team they’ve hosted for the last 21 years, they also still have to pay for the stadium they built to lure the Rams to their hometown in the first place.

At the beginning of 2015, city and state taxpayers still owed more than $100 million in debt on the bonds used to finance the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium St. Louis put $280 million in public funds behind in 1995.

It isn’t scheduled to pay off that debt until at least 2021, and that could be more difficult without the Rams and the $500,000 rent payment the team made each year. The city itself owes $5 million per year over that period, and the loss of the Rams could increase costs in the short-term.

Politicians, being incapable of admitting to fuck ups, are trying to spin this to their favor. But the bottom line is the city will have to pay off the stadium without a continuos source of rent. That will almost certainly lead to a rise in property taxes if not other taxes to make up the difference.

Publicly funded stadiums are nothing more than exercises in transferring wealth from the people to the politicians and their cronies. Even though the Rams are moving on the team gets to enjoy a great deal of wealth it otherwise wouldn’t have had because it was tight with the local politicians who were willing to put the tax victims on the line.