The days of sports franchises (or, to be more accurate, sports franchise owners) holding cities hostage for tax-payer funded stadiums could be coming to an end of a group of politicians have anything to say about it. On Tuesday, in the shadows of other noteworthy political headlines in D.C., a bill designed to block sports franchises from using municipal bonds to fund stadium construction expenses was introduced in the Senate.
“Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue,” New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker said in a released statement. “There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.”
A report from the Brookings Institution calculated $3.2 billion in federal taxpayer money was spent on municipal bonds to go toward the costs to building or renovating 36 stadiums across all sports. That included $431 million for Yankee Stadium, $205 million for Soldier Field (Chicago Bears), and $185 million for Citi Field (New York Mets).
Stadium issues always seem to be a story somewhere in the sports world, and it is routine for owners to threaten to pack up and relocate their franchise if they do not get what they want from the city. In the last year, Los Angeles ended up being the destination for the NFL’s Rams (St. Louis) and Chargers (San Diego) after each team reached a breaking point with their previous homes. The Oakland Raiders are preparing to leave for Las Vegas in a few years once a brand new state-of-the-art facility is constructed. Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics remain in pursuit of a long-term solution as well.
Who knows if this bill will gain much traction moving forward because this is not the first time something like this has been brought to the government. As noted by Darren Rovell of ESPN, the House of Representatives had a similar bill brought to them in March 2016. It’s a wise political move at the very least, as it allows politicians to advertise and campaign on fighting to protect communities from being ransacked by professional sports teams that can clearly fund such luxuries themselves.