My New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels to move on to the World Series! Wednesday night, game one will be played at what I call “Freeloader Stadium.”
I call it that because it’s the most expensive baseball stadium ever. The watchdog website Field of Schemes says it cost $2.3 billion to build. Did the successful sports tycoons who own the Yankees pay that? No. Of course not. They expect to get richer by getting you to pay for more than half of it:
Of [the $2.3B cost], the public -- city, state, and federal taxpayers -- are now covering just shy of $1.2 billion, by far the largest stadium subsidy ever.
This means that everyone -- Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, and people who don’t follow baseball -- pays for the lavish new sports palace.
Why? Why do sports tycoons get taxpayer handouts?
Because politicians like big projects, like getting invited to sit in luxury boxes, like starring in ticker-tape parades, and they convince themselves and taxpayers that a big stadium is in the “public interest” -- that it will bring many new jobs and practically pay for itself.
This is nonsense. Studies like this one show that stadiums cost cities far more than they return. Sure, the stadium creates new jobs for the ushers, vendors, and local shops. But that’s what is seen. The unseen are the jobs not created by the money that people would’ve spent if it hadn’t been taxed away. That money could have been used by entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing ones, build new homes, etc. But because it’s hard to show the people who didn’t get jobs because money was diverted, the sports execs and their politician friends continue to fleece the public.
Years ago, when I did a TV special called “Freeloaders,” Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said I shouldn’t blame him for taking the handout:
“You mean, if somebody walks up to you and hands you money, you shouldn’t take it? The fact is – I was offered this stadium by elected officials.”
Bingo. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse. And with all that free money being tossed at them, teams like the Yankees get to pocket added revenue from thousand-dollar luxury seats that offer champagne and sushi service, while spending $423 million dollars on three star players to help them get to the World Series. I have no problem with such opulence if it is paid for by the team owners. But taking it from taxpayers is disgusting.
The Yankees aren’t the only team guilty of this -- though they're today’s most egregious case. Their World Series opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, got the public to pay for half of their $458 million Citizens Bank Park. Maybe we should call it “Citizens Robbed Park.”