Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Titanic feudal peonage

A long time ago Nashville started paying subsidies, including millions out of each year's Metro Water budget, to attract and keep the Houston Oilers / Tennessee Titans here. Supporters acknowledge that the economic impact of pro sports teams is negligible, given the subsidies, but somehow, their logic stipulates, the community spirit teams create (when they win, of course) makes the financial expense worth the blow to the pocketbook.

But given an October Atlantic article about how the public subsidies alone (without ticket sales or merchandising revenues) make a few people wealthy beyond the unending wealth they already possess, how good can the transaction be for the community?

Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor of urban planning, calculates that league-wide, 70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums has been provided by taxpayers, not NFL owners. Many cities, counties, and states also pay the stadiums’ ongoing costs, by providing power, sewer services, other infrastructure, and stadium improvements. When ongoing costs are added, Long’s research finds, the ... Tennessee Titans have turned a profit on stadium subsidies alone—receiving more money from the public than they needed to build their facilities. Long’s estimates show that just three NFL franchises—the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and New York Jets—have paid three-quarters or more of their stadium capital costs.

Almost none of the NFL football teams are publicly owned. All are owned by wealthy families, which means that Bud Adams, owner of the Titans, is "converting public subsidies and tax favors into high living for a modern-day feudal elite."

Say what you will about the so-called "intangible" benefits of having a professional team in your city. The feudal lords of the National Football League soak up most of the tangible benefits that the NFL's serf-cities hand them.

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