Comedian John Oliver went after stadium subsidies in his show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," last July. But, as sports season is picking up and more colossal stadiums are set to open soon, looking back to what he said seems appropriate.
In the show, Oliver said many stadiums are built with public money, demonstrating with stats that $12 billion was spend on 51 facilities opened between 2000 and 2010.
Oliver also raised the issue of using taxpayer money for building stadiums and he cited the example of taxpayers bearing 2/3rd of $444 million hockey arena in Detroit.
"Every stadium gets some kind of public money," Oliver said on the show.
Oliver noted that tax exempt municipal bonds, which should be used for building roads or other basic public needs, are used to build stadiums.
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He said teams are successful businesses and quoted Sun Sentinel's report on the Marlins that showed the team was generating nearly $50 million in operating profits, while the Marlins have long said they weren't making any profits.
"We have to come to our senses and stop signing these deals," Oliver concluded.
The Trend Continues
According to an article from the Atlantic CityLab, "U.S. taxpayers are bearing a large part of the cost. In the past 15 years alone, over $12 billion of the public's money has gone to privately owned stadiums."
The trend is by no means isolated, and the future seems to hold no immanent changes.
Take for instance the still-under-construction U.S. Bank Stadium, home to the Minnesota Vikings slated to open this July. According to CityLab, "[P]ublic dollars account for roughly half the cost – an estimated $498 million – of the total $1.06 billion bill."
Looking even further ahead, the Atlanta Falcon's new stadium is set to open next year "at a projected cost of $1.5 billion, with the public picking up an estimated $600 million of its tab," according to CityLab.
CityLab came to the following conclusion: "The overwhelming conclusion of decades of economic research on the subject is that using public funds to subsidize wealthy sports franchises makes zero economic sense and is a giant waste of taxpayer money. A wide array of studies have shown that professional teams add virtually no income to local economies.
"In fact, some of them find that large subsidies actually have a negative effect, taking money out of the local economy [...] Ultimately, the burden of public subsidies falls disproportionately on small cities that are the least able to bear the cost."
Rebecca Sheppard contributed to this report.
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