On New Stadiums

Posted March 21, 2021 12:07 pm

I’m currently reading Field of Schemes by Neil Demause & Joanna Cagan. It talks about how sports team owners manage to screw the public out of money to pay for their new stadiums and arenas. In one of the later chapters, I found a quote that I think sums up how absurd it is that we are the ones paying for their stadiums.

For reference, ‘TIFS’ stands for Tax Increment Financing. The short description is it’s just a finance tool that is often used to make things like stadium deals seem less toxic and more palatable.

As St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Edward Lotterman wrote on the absurdities of TIFS: “My wife and I have often talked about a small addition that would extend the back porch the full width of the house. It would be nice if the government would give us the money to do this. The value of the house would increase and so would our taxes. The higher taxes would pay the government back eventually, so it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything. It seems like a great idea, but for some reason the government is not willing to step up to our plate. We threatened to move to Portland or Charlotte if we don’t get help, but officials just laughed.”

I’m a big sports fan, and a fan of the Philadelphia teams, especially the Flyers and the Phillies. Still, I would rather see them pack up and leave than spend public funding on new stadiums. That money could be better spent on schools, public transit, and countless other initiatives that would bring a much better return on investment to Philadelphia than a new stadium ever could.