Stadium won't ram taxpayers (very hard)
It took a lot of gall for National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to pan the football stadiums in San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis as “unsatisfactory and inadequate” days before the league voted to approve the Rams’ move back to L.A., with a one-year option for the Chargers to join them in their planned stadium in Inglewood.
It was a double slap in the face when he dismissed the San Diego and St. Louis proposals to replace their stadiums in an attempt to keep their teams, considering that both city governments had generously offered several hundred million dollars of their taxpayers’ money to subsidize new stadiums for the billionaire team owners.
Though hardly a core government function, subsidizing entertainment venues like sports stadiums has, regrettably, become an all-too-common occurrence. In addition to direct subsidies from local governments (i.e., taxpayers), pro sports team owners benefit from tax-free municipal bond financing.
“Tax exemptions on interest paid by muni bonds that were issued for sports structures cost the U.S. Treasury $146 million a year,” Bloomberg reported in 2012. “Over the life of the $17 billion of exempt debt issued to build stadiums since 1986, the last of which matures in 2047, taxpayer subsidies to bondholders will total $4 billion, the data show.”
The irony of the Rams deal is that the heavily subsidized stadium proposals lost out to the one that will hit taxpayers the least. Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium, now estimated to cost as much as $2.66 billion, will be almost entirely privately financed, although the city will dole out sales tax kickbacks of up to an estimated $180 million to pay for infrastructure such as streets, sewers and parks.
“It’s one of the most public-friendly deals ever,” Neil deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes” and editor of a website of the same name, told ThinkProgress. “It’s good to see for once when you have team owners trying to shake down various cities for money, the option that won was the option that stuck the public with the bill the least. That’s a reason to cheer.”
So, huzzah! Those infrastructure kickbacks are still too much for our liking, but the Inglewood stadium is nonetheless much better than the alternatives. The private owner — not the taxpayer — is bearing the risk for his investment, as it should be.
Reprinted from the Orange County Register
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