Recently, a new wave of MLB stadiums and renovations, the third wave, are being put out and the positive and negative consequences of which are being debated.
The main issue with these stadiums and renovations is that they cost money, a lot of it. Even though they are fully capable of paying these lofty prices, teams refuse to pay the cost of the stadiums in full and instead ask for money from city governments to help pay.
The first team to go full out on this tactic was the Atlanta Braves. In 2017 they opened the stadium, Suntrust Park, with an entertainment district, The Battery. The Braves asked that the county help pay and they did, contributing $390 million dollars. The team argued that the facilities would increase the general welfare, and so far, it has.
Picture of “The Battery” in East Cobb, Georgia.
According to the article Study Says Suntrust Park, The Battery An Economic Homerun by the Atlanta Business chronicle, Cobb County schools (the county that the stadium is located in) will receive $1.6 million dollars annually from the project. When asked on his opinion of the latter fact, baseball fan Jack Michalek said that he “thinks it is good that [the project] is giving back to the community”.
However, Jack Michalek was also asked whether he thought the $390 million dollars that the city had to pay actually led to the general welfare of the population, to which he replied that “[he] does not the stadium necessarily does… if the team is good then people will go”. It is interesting that when asked about an individual aspect of the community, he thought the stadium was a positive good, but when asked about the entire community, he did not feel the same.
This brings up another issue, who is really paying for the stadium, and who is actually going? Anyone who has gone to a game lately will notice that the demographic of attendees has changed to the millennial generation. When another baseball fan, Jack Harpole was asked about the the stadiums bringing in money, he replied “the millennials will not care”. Though this is heavily opinionated, he does bring up an interesting point.
According to the same article by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, in some cases taxes were increased by up to thirty percent to pay for the project. Not every citizen in the county is not a millennial and neither is every game attendee a millennial. Yet the people paying for the stadium are not usually the ones attending the games.
It seems like every few months a new big stadium project is being announced, and in December or 2017 the Rockies themselves announced plans for a new multipurpose entertainment district that would be built where the west parking lot currently sits. The district will include restaurants, condos, etc. But like Atlanta, the citizens are going to have to pay.
The costs of the project are still unknown, but the Rockies have tied down the 99 year lease for the three acres in the heart of downtown. This creates an issue that other projects have not seen. Some people are wondering if this is really a responsible use of the land. Three acres is a lot in a crowded downtown that Denver is becoming.
But some people, like diehard Rockies fan Colin Armistead, believe that the project is a good use of the land and is very beneficiary. When asked about the topic, Colin said that “There is plenty of land around Coors Field, and having things like that to get more people into the ballpark and Denver is always a good idea”.
Picture taken at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Colin then is agreeing that the projects do indeed lead to the general welfare. All three people interviewed also agreed with this argument. It is the same argument that teams have used for years to get funding, and it is the same argument the Rockies are using.
All three subjects also agreed that they personally do spend time and money outside of the stadium before and after games. They also agreed that they will spend time and money at the new entertainment district when it opens. Colin Armistead went as far as to say that he will go the day it opens.
The issue is, they are agreeing that the businesses surrounding the stadium will profit but not necessarily the people themselves. The people being taxed will not be recompensed for their contributions. The only reward these people receive is the newness of the stadium and a place to go have a good time.
Picture of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska
When a government decides to go into an economic agreement with the teams, it becomes a win-win. The team gains revenue for having a new stadium that people will want to visit. The government and all government funded sub-divisions such as schools will benefit from the increased taxes. But one thing remains, the people pay and are not repaid.
The second wave of stadiums such as Tropicana field and the Oakland Colosseum were obvious busts, and as a result the teams are being forced to build brand new third wave stadiums that are wildly expensive and focused on entertainment. The third wave of stadiums are beautiful and entertaining, but at what cost?