Thursday, December 08, 2011

It is not as simple as "Take me out to the ball game"

I'm working my way through these ballpark proposals that were made to the Mayor's Office recently, and I'm thinking through them before writing a response, although my views on financing are predictable.

Speaking of financing ballparks, for those of you remotely interested in these issues, take a look at the attention that City of Miami has drawn from the SEC for allegedly agreeing to finance 80% of their pro baseball team's new stadium without first doing their homework on the team's financials:

SEC subpoenas to the city and Miami-Dade County are seeking a long list of documents and records, including those involving meetings and communications between government officials and executives with the Marlins and Major League Baseball ....

The $634 million retractable-roof stadium, set to open for the 2012 season, has been controversial from the start because more than three-fourths of its costs are being borne by taxpayers. More recently, Miami city officials raised concerns about having to pay the county $2 million in property taxes for adjacent parking garages operated by the Marlins ....

Investigators also want records about the Marlins' ability to contribute to the stadium complex's financing, the team's revenues and profitability, and whether any Marlins employees gave "any payments, loans, campaign contributions or any offers of anything of value" to city, county or state government officials ....

Stadium deals generate a baroque labyrinth of financing, cash-flow projections, and financial impact models that hide more truth than they reveal. They require time, resources, and specialized intelligence to digest. Shielding the time-consuming, energy-sucking financial jargon is the thin veneer of trite, peppy messages prepared by PR firms, repeated by politicians and blindly recapitulated by "Friends for [Whatever] Ballpark" that never really explain exactly what is happening in the maze of legalese that is a nearly perfect money distribution system when not watched.

Yahoo! Sports' writer Jeff Passan is even more pointed and direct about what happens to the money in the maze:

Until now, the Marlins were another rich corporation trying to get richer on the backs of its fans. Teams everywhere do it. Cities kowtowing to those that want them to pay for stadiums is as commonplace as it is abhorrent.

The Marlins pushed the limits on exactly how much a team can hold its city hostage. They cried poverty and threatened to move unless they got a new stadium while refusing to disclose their financial records – records that were later leaked and showed a team swimming in tens of millions of dollars in profits and funneled millions more to a corporation run by team owner Jeffrey Loria.

Miami-Dade County commissioners nevertheless voted 9-4 in favor of taking out loans that will cost the county $2.4 billion over 40 years to help build the stadium .... Critics across south Florida panned the deal, which gives the Marlins all stadium-related revenue.

The cautionary tale for Nashville is that instead of acting like the wealthy and influential partners who eventually do build a new ballpark are doing us favors, we should be observant of how the deal plays out and who the winners and losers are, especially in those neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity.

Beyond the bumper-sticker slogans we encounter as these plans pan out, what we don't know can hurt us.

1 comment:

  1. Mayor Karl Dean is looking to pa ck his resume in any way what-so-ever. The man knows no shame. It is entirely obvious he does not give a damn about this city, nor the citizens of Nashville.

    A responsible mayor, a mayor who put community first, would NOT be kowtowing to building a new, very expensive stadium.

    This mayor runs on image - the image of Nashville.

    He is all too willing to sacrifice our bones for HIS image.

    Where does he come from? It is not our town. He does not come from OUR people.

    He represents the elite. He is a mis-guided soul.