Three clubs set example with private ballpark funding
Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:52PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:17PM
Unable to cut a deal with Oakland, the A's moved down the road to Fremont.
New Stadium Projects
Recently Completed Stadiums
Petco Park San Diego Padres
Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers
Busch Stadium III St. Louis Cardinals
Citizens Bank Ballpark Philadelphia Phillies
Great American Ballpark Cincinnati Reds
PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates
*Sources: Phillip Miller, ballparks.com
As fans, we've put up with a lot over the past few years.
Our jaws dropped when Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers in 2000 for more than the gross domestic products of 17 countries. We cringed when the Red Sox started charging us upwards of $400 for a family of four to attend a game at Fenway Park. We shook our heads when they built premium seating in foul territory at Dodger Stadium, eliminating a hurlers' advantage at one of the premier pitcher's parks in the Majors.
We still shudder at forking over close to $30 for a beer, a Cha Cha bowl and an order of garlic fries at San Francisco's AT&T Park (or Pac Bell, or SBC, or whatever they're calling it these days).
We've been resilient. It's the game we love. No matter how jaded we've become as baseball becomes big business in America -- more so every day -- we've written off the increasingly heavy costs as the price of being a fan. It's for the good of the game, right?
But when owners want our local governments to raise our taxes to build new stadiums, well, that's where things get dodgy. We'll pay their prices to go to their games and fund their paychecks. But why should the costs of doing business fall on us as taxpayers? After all, Bill Gates wouldn't ask the residents of Redmond, Wash., to fund Microsoft's corporate campus, would he?
That's why I'm psyched about something a trio of owners, both new and old, have done over the past few months. That's right, I'm actually about to give a shoutout to George Steinbrenner. And to Fred Wilpon and Lew Wolff. These owners have laid plans to build new stadiums for the Yankees, Mets and A's, respectively, and these new projects are being financed with a majority of funding from private sources.
Why is that a big deal? Because for the most part, the way stadiums get built is something like this: Despite signing multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals with Fortune 500 companies, inking lucrative television deals that could make Ted Turner blush, raising ticket prices at an astonishing rate and selling naming rights that ranged from bizarre (3Com) to ridiculous (Enron), owners actually want us -- the fans, the taxpayers -- to fund their places of business.
Between 1962 and 1982, all but one stadium was financed entirely by or close to 100 percent public funding, according to data collected by Minnesota State University's Phillip Miller for an upcoming report in the Journal of Sports Economics. Since then, as big business made its way into the game, about half of all new stadiums were still being financed mostly by taxpayer-collected funds. That includes enormously pricey projects such as Seattle's Safeco Field and San Diego's Petco Park (built at costs of $559 million and $457 million, respectively, two-thirds of which were public money).
And the trend is continuing. Minneapolis will build a $522 million monstrosity for the Twins, with 75 percent of the burden falling on taxpayers. Washington, D.C., is set to build a highly controversial $611 million park for the Nationals that's entirely publicly funded.
That's the ultimate in hypocrisy, and it's a slap in the face to the fan. Team owners and politicians can preach all they want about how these projects will provide jobs and promote civic pride, but there's no reason why Joe and Mary Taxpayer should be subsidizing moneymaking schemes for multimillionaire owners. That holds even truer for small-market teams, where there's less corporate money to be had and even more of the burden falling on the fans.