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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

We need to stop publicly funding private sports stadiums

Billion-dollar franchises are taking money from right under our noses

Attending a sports game is a one-of-a-kind experience. Sitting in the stands, taking in one of your favorite pastimes along with thousands of other fans generates a feeling that’s hard to replicate. Munching on peanuts and sipping a soda at your seat while watching a game unfold is an unforgettable experience. It makes you feel like a part of something larger. However, it all comes at a cost as building a stadium for over 30,000 fans is a monumental task with unimaginable costs—ones that taxpayers should not be willing to pay. The team profits all go to a private company anyway, so why should it be the public that has to make the down payment? 

The new stadium of the Las Vegas football team, the Raiders, cost their ownership (and the city) $2 billion for the 70,000 seat stadium. In Los Angeles, Sofi Stadium, the new home of the Rams and Chargers, can fit up to 100,000 fans and cost the team owners $6 billion. These football stadiums cost such insane amounts of money that it makes the proposed $1 billion baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s pale in comparison. 

Scrounging up a sum this large to pay for a new stadium is something only the wealthiest people and companies can afford and it makes a lasting dent in the wallet of its sponsor. Like the savvy businessmen these team-owning billionaires are, why would they offer to pay for their own stadium if someone else will do it instead? That’s where the cities and their taxpayers come in.

The favorite strategy of these billionaires is to make a fancy bid to whatever county they want to play in about all the benefits the county could get by having a team play there. Of course, they always say they can only do it if the city pays a given percentage of the stadium’s cost, even if the terms are very unfavorable. Because on the other hand, teams can just threaten to move down the road if they don’t get their way.

This is effectively billionaires using their influence to get money to build privately-owned stadiums at the expense of the county and its taxpayers. Some call it capitalism, I call it exploitation. 

Counties need to stop voting to accept these outrageous proposals and be willing to stand up to these bullies for themselves and their residents. 

When counties accept these one-sided deals, whether they profit in the end or not is often a tossup. Oakland-Alameda county is still paying off loans from a deal in 1995, all while the Raiders franchise more than doubled in value over that time and now play in Las Vegas. San Diego was in a similar position, sending their taxpayer dollars down the drain to the tune of millions a year in the unprofitable Qualcomm Stadium upkeep. When the Chargers wanted to make a new stadium deal, San Diego was apprehensive, and with good reason. Their worry ended up saving the city and its taxpayers from another publicly funded disaster, making them an example of why we need to stand up to these sports monopolies.

In the deal the Chargers needed $300 million to complete the stadium and projected a $1.1 billion total cost to the city over 30 years. The Public Resources Advisory Group, however, projected the cost at $2.3 billion, far beyond the team’s estimate and any chance of making a profit for the county. When the proposal made the ballot and was defeated, it came with cheers and parade, even though all the voters had just lost their only major sports team. They escaped the trap laid by the NFL franchise and made a savvy decision of their own accord to keep the county healthy.

Publicly funding these sports stadiums for billionaires is usually a trap for counties and their residents. Voters on these proposals need to recognize that. Put your wallet and the county’s health above your sports consumption—stand up for yourself versus the ultra-rich. Make these billionaires put their money where their mouth is and pay for their own sports toys. Please make the rational decision and keep your county from signing a death note to house these billionaires and pad their wallets. 

Written by: Alex Motawi — almotawi@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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