Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Florida about to lower the boom on predatory pro sports owners?

Thanks to a reader for pointing me to this refreshing story from the Sunshine State:

The pursuit of public funds for football stadiums carries with it certain obligations that wouldn’t apply if football teams would simply build their own buildings. In Florida, the powers-that-be previously passed a law requiring venues that receive public funds to discharge an important public duty: provide shelter to the homeless when the buildings are otherwise not in use.

To date, the three NFL stadiums located in Florida, along with numerous other facilities, have failed to comply. Now, a pair of Republican legislators hope to force the stadiums to comply — or to refund the public money previously received ....

It’s a great move. Florida has subsidized pro sports franchises with a clear expectation that the pro sports franchises will help the homeless. The pro sports franchises have pocketed the money while ignoring their obligations.

Can you imagine if the General Assembly or Metro government required the Titans and Predators to use the stadium and arena for broader public goods and for helping the disadvantaged when not functioning as sports venues?

Nope. Neither can I.

Here in Tennessee, we're so deliriously whipped by a dream that was pro sports Camelot that we will let them do anything they want with our buildings. They can decline huge concerts that would put money back in Metro coffers. When they do have concerts, they can pillage the sales taxes that should be going to Metro services with practically no popular backlash or legislative protest.

So, even the enlightened thought of catching up to Florida and attempting to require subsidized pro teams to give some of their publicly funded infrastructure back to the community seems like wild utopian ideation, unless we refuse to continue to go quietly into this imbalanced dystopia we've built handing team owners our money, no questions asked.

And don't expect to hear any talk of a new minor league baseball stadium being dedicated to anything public either.

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