For those of you who aren't New Yorkers or just don't know what I'm talking about, yesterday a key supervisory panel rejected the building of a new Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. The people who lived there didn't want it, and there weren't adequate public transportation facilities or parking to make the project viable. But the real sticking point is that once again the taxpayers were expected to foot the bill: this time to the tune of $600 million plus tax abatements and favorable zoning. The folks in Queens, who do have a transportation network, wanted the stadium built there, but the Mayor only cares about Manhattan.
So this is a really insular, right? Why should you care? Because if you live in a major metro area, you deal with this stuff all the time, whether you pay attention to it or not. Sports teams are forever threatening to move their teams to another state if the citizens of a town don't agree to fork over another wad of cash for a new luxury stadium with ever-higher ticket prices. And city and state politicians are constantly lauding the benefits of athletics in their communities, much like universities. The biennal Oiympic sweepstakes are just the most egregious form of this sort of boosterism.
So do I hate the Olympics? Do I hate sports? No. I like sports, particularly baseball and basketball. I don't object to a team locating in a town, or even a city trying to win an Olympic bid. What I do object to is the millions of dollars of taxpayer money going to these White Elephants when school budgets are being slashed every year.
The sports boosters claim an economic benefit: stadium construction creates jobs and the Olympics attracts international attention to a town. The problem is that there is not one shred of evidence that any long-term jobs have ever been created by these projects. Most towns lose money on the Olympics, and stadium construction is a very short-term benefit. Many of the contracts go to out-of-town companies, are there is little support for any sports-centered â€œripple effect.â€ The best example of this problem, which built a new Turner Field and hosted the 1996 summer games with no evidence economic return.
So the next time some sports owner wants you to help him build a new stadium, tell him to pay for it himself. It's his friggin team.