Thursday, February 3, 2011

Owners, Build Your Own Stadiums [Mondays with Gus]

Owners of sports franchises are doing billions of dollars in damage to cities around America, and all sports fans can say is “Give me more!” If you've ever sat around and wondered why you're paying $7 for a beer, wonder no more.

This all starts from the day the stadium is built. It's standard operating procedure to demand money to build the stadiums from the city, or they will threaten to move to a huge market. In the NFL, this means Los Angeles. The cities almost always cave in and pay up. But here comes the most interesting part: Why does the NFL owner get to keep the income from the naming rights?

The Houston Texans signed a $300 million deal for naming rights to their stadium. The stadium itself cost $442 million, and included an increase in taxes of over $284 million. They didn't tax team merchandise either, which would only impact fans of the team. They taxed hotels and rental cars, making people from out of town pay for a team they will likely never care about. So why is it that the city doesn't get that money back? They're the reason that revenue stream even exists. The simple reason, the Houston Texans (and most sports teams) couldn't survive without the taxpayer money.

This is money that could go toward infrastructure, parks, libraries, etc. But it isn't going to the people of the community. It's going to one (usually billionaire) owner, who employs only a few dozen people full time (most employees of sports franchises are part time workers, and have terrible, if any benefits). Art Modell, former owner of the Baltimore Ravens once said “The pride and presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries.”

Maybe we're starting to see why Baltimore's high school student graduation rate was 34.6%.

-Ghassan Rafeedie

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