THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
The cost of building and maintaining municipal stadiums has become increasingly exorbitant, and the misleading information being given taxpayers about construction financing can only cause anger and suspicion.
Eighteen months ago the citizens of Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a hotel-motel tax to pay for a new $35-million stadium in New Orleans. The voters were assured that no other state taxes or backing would be needed to complete the project. It all sounded big league and glorious. However, the ground has not yet been broken, and the estimated cost of the complex has already risen to $95 million, up $60 million.
The Louisiana legislature is now being asked to guarantee a $95-million bond issue to pay for the project. Since stadiums almost always lose money (events at St. Louis' Busch Memorial Stadium drew 3.1 million people last year, more than anywhere else in the U.S., but the stadium lost $1.2 million), the state, in effect, is being asked to finance the New Orleans complex. If it agrees to back the necessary bond issue and pays what seems reasonable—5�% over 30 years—the bond payment due annually would be almost $7 million. This would mean that over 30 years the cost of the stadium to the state would be approximately $200 million.
A similar, but less extreme, situation exists in Kansas City, Mo. Last June voters were asked to approve a $43-million bond issue to finance the building of twin football and baseball stadiums. They were shown a scale model of a complex that had a rollaway roof right out of science fiction. The bond issue passed, but now it seems there will be no roof. The two stadiums—plus land, parking facilities and access roads—will cost more than $43 million. Putting on the roof would add an additional $8 to $10 million. Skeptics—or perhaps realists—are saying the city may find itself with only enough money for one stadium.
Because the feasibility studies on income were so grossly optimistic, the public in Anaheim, Calif. is having to shell out an additional half-million dollars a year to meet the debts falling due on the ball park.
The Washington stadium has lost $6 million in its seven years, forcing the District of Columbia government to appeal annually for advances from the Federal Government to meet the stadium's debts. The real rub will come in 1970 when the first of the $19.8 million worth of bonds must be retired. If losses continue, which seems inevitable, there will not be a cent available to meet the payments, and the stadium board probably will have to appeal to Congress for an outright grant of taxpayers' money.
None of which is doing sport any good. New venues, new stadiums, new leagues are all wonderful things—but not when they leave the citizens of a community feeling gulled.
There is a tradition in baseball that servicemen in uniform are allowed into most games free or at reduced rates. But the Athletics' Charlie Finley says this is not his policy. He has notified the many military installations in the Bay Area that servicemen must pay the full price if they wish to attend Oakland games. Since just 4,062 people paid to watch the A's the day following Catfish Hunter's perfect game, it would seem Mr. Finley had room.
Midpeninsula Free University near San Francisco was founded to add a new dimension to the education of students at colleges like Stanford and San Jose State. At the Free University anyone can be a teacher—you just advertise a course and get yourself a class. There is a seminar, for instance, in The Art of Giving Away Bread. There are courses to get rid of hang-ups, i.e., the People Heat seminar and Advanced Group Loving. And finally the school offers mystical courses, one of which is Zen Basketball. It is played like the regular game. The difference is all mental. While the game is in progress the participants must have a consciousness of spiritual discipline. "You do not play to win," Robb Crist, executive director of the school explains. "You play to get calm, to keep track of yourself, to keep your consciousness. It's like taking acid." So far the school has played only intramural games.