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In the wake of controversial plans to build new, taxpayer-subsidized stadiums in Minneapolis and Atlanta, economists of all stripes have been skeptical of the actual economic gains created by these projects. At an AEI event on Thursday, Travis Waldron of the Center for American Progress and the University of Maryland's Dennis Coates suggested that this issue has been muddied by dubious claims that new stadiums will create an economic boon in the surrounding community. Coates noted that the benefit the average citizen receives from stadium subsidies is far less than the benefit he or she receives from other public goods such as police patrols and crime prevention. Waldron argued that bureaucrats should call it like it is and acknowledge that taxpayers are paying to keep their local professional teams in service.
AEI's own Kevin Hassett raised the question of whether state-sponsored stadiums have different kinds of positive utility for society that might allow them to be considered public goods. Sports teams foster a sense of geographical loyalty, which allows citizens to feel more connected to the cities they inhabit. Steve Marsh of Grantland agreed, describing stadium subsidies as necessary public assets that create a unique type of value for local citizens.
If a National Football League or Major League Baseball team wants a new stadium, that team gets a new stadium — and usually at the expense of US taxpayers. Is there any US industry more subsidized than professional sports?
Tax credits, handouts, and even eminent domain are part of the standard package that state, county, and local governments offer to professional sports teams seeking new stadiums. Such corporate welfare typically commands bipartisan majorities in state legislatures and city halls, thanks to promises of new jobs and economic growth. But the data suggest that these lofty plans do not pay off.
Join AEI for a discussion of professional sports subsidies and — fittingly — for a free lunch.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page and join the conversation on Twitter with #AEIcompetition. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Registration and Lunch
Dennis Coates, University of Maryland
Kevin A. Hassett, AEI
Steve Marsh, Grantland
Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress
Timothy P. Carney, AEI
For more information, please contact Janine Nichols at [email protected], 202.862.7172.
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Timothy P. Carney is a visiting fellow at AEI, where he helps direct the Culture of Competition Project, examining barriers to competition in all areas of American life, from the economy to the world of ideas. Carney has more than a decade of experience as a journalist covering the intersection of politics and economics. His work at AEI focuses on how to reinvigorate a competitive culture in America in which all can reap the benefits of a fair economy. Carney is the author of two books: “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money” (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) and “Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses” (Regnery Publishing, 2009).
Dennis Coates is professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He is the book review editor for the Journal of Sports Economics and on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Sport Finance and the Journal of Sport Management. He was on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, before moving to UMBC in 1995. His work focuses on political economy and public policy issues with emphasis on sport and sports economics topics.
Kevin A. Hassett is the director of economic policy studies and a senior fellow at AEI. Before joining AEI, he was a senior economist on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, an associate professor of economics and finance at Columbia Business School, and a policy consultant to the US Department of the Treasury during the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He served as an economic adviser during the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, as chief economic adviser to Senator John McCain during the 2000 presidential primaries, and as senior economic adviser during the McCain 2008 presidential campaign. Hassett also writes a column for National Review.
Steve Marsh has covered celebrities, politics, and sports for GQ, New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Delta Sky, and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. His Grantland.com article “The house that Christian Ponder built” is a comprehensive account of the legislative battle for what will be the largest public works project in Minnesota’s history, the $1 billion “People’s Stadium.”
Travis Waldron is a researcher and reporter for ThinkProgress, a Center for American Progress blog. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on former Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.