Voters seem to be wising up to the stadium con

One of the worst things about professional sports in the US is that the owners of teams extort local communities to foot the bill for fancy new stadiums by threatening to take the teams elsewhere if they do not receive massive taxpayer subsidies. Studies have shown that the economic benefits that the stadiums supposedly provide are often wildly inflated and in reality bring nowhere near the amount that the public puts up. The team owners have pulled off this scam many times but it looks like citizens are getting wise to this extortion racket and refusing to pay.

For the Kansas City Chiefs brass, it must have seemed like the perfect time to ask local voters to cough up some money for stadium renovations.

The team was riding high from a big Super Bowl win in February 2024, its third NFL championship in the past five years. Two fellow NFL franchises, the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, had received record taxpayer handouts for new stadiums in the past two years. And voters in neighboring Oklahoma City had recently approved at least US$900 million in subsidies for a new NBA arena.

But the Chiefs and their partners in the effort, the Kansas City Royals of MLB, were in for a rude awakening.

On April 2, 2024, voters in Jackson County soundly rejected a referendum to extend a local sales tax for 40 years in order to provide $2 billion in public funding to build a new baseball stadium in downtown Kansas City and fund major renovations of Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs.

The vote in Missouri came one month after the collapse of an arena project that would have moved the Washington, D.C.’s basketball and hockey teams, the Wizards and Capitals, to Alexandria, Virginia.

Similarly, proposed facilities in Las Vegas; Oakland, California; Tampa, Florida; and Chicago have all run into serious roadblocks, all stemming from taxpayers questioning why they should be forced to cover private businesses’ expenses.

What was looking like a flood of new taxpayer-financed sports facilities across the country has turned into a trickle.

Good. Professional sports teams are a cash cow for their owners. Let them pay for their own toys.

It is important to realize that these latest rejections occurred when voters had a say in the process. The sweetheart deals the teams receive are often because elected officials negotiate with owners in secret and then foist them on the public.

It turns out that handing over taxpayer dollars to billionaire owners tends to be far less popular among regular citizens than among well-connected government officials.

I hope this trend continues.


  1. says

    The sweetheart deals the teams receive are often because elected officials negotiate with owners in secret and then foist them on the public.

    And sometimes the foisting doesn’t work as planned. Back in the ’90s (IIRC), Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and then-VA-governor Doug Wilder announced a surprise deal to move the team across the river to a new stadium in Potomac Yards — to be paid for, at least initially, by VA taxpayers, which both Cooke and Wilder clearly took it for granted that we’d all welcome the news with smiles, cheers, and open arms and wallets. Wilder parroted all the usual talking-points about how this was gonna bring jobs and prosperity to Northern Virginia; and Cooke, in his trademark arrogant way, pretty much explicitly promised we’d all see what a wunnerful gift he was giving us (and billing us for), and thank him from the bottom of our hearts (or of Virginia’s bond rating, I forget which), as is the Natural Order of Things. And the deal died anyway, even though there wasn’t much of anything in Potomac Yards at the time. So it kinda surprises me that anyone would try to build a new arena in the same place after Potomac Yards had already got built up with posh condos and shopping centers.

  2. seachange says

    @lykex #2

    Ha ha ha ha ha!

    The city of Los Angeles got to see the best football games of the week for decades because we resisted this bullshit. NFL rules require the local broadcasters to automatically broadcast all of the home teams’ games no matter how bad the home teams were. Or, they were not allowed to broadcast NFL games. Since LA didn’t have a home team we got to see whatever our local stations wanted to broadcast.

    Alas, they did indeed-and-eventually coerce/bribe smaller cities that surround us for their exhorbitant toys so now there are teams calling themselves Los Angeles teams, but they’re not. But NFL says they are in our media market so we’re now forced to watch them.

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