Cheering for the home team can unify communities divided by politics, economics, and personal differences. However, this unification can come at a high cost, one that will inevitably fall to the taxpayer. While it is typical for professional athletic associations to use tax dollars to pay for their stadiums, arenas, or other venues of choice, public subsidies are not the only means to this end, nor are they the most efficient.
The National Football League (NFL) has defended its use of public subsidies for new infrastructure by claiming that new facilities will serve to benefit the public. Promises of economic booms and job growth are typically used to justify the use of public funds for athletic purposes, though the rhetoric rarely matches the reality of the situation.
Last week, San Diego residents took a powerful stand against professional athletic subsidies.
For over a year, the Chargers have been threatening to leave San Diego unless the city agrees to provide a new stadium for the team’s use. Two separate proposals were placed on the ballot for consideration, each promising to raise the hotel tax and accept public subsidies for the construction of a new stadium. Fortunately, both measures were overwhelming rejected by San Diego voters.
However, while the public was only given two options, both of which would have come at the expense of the taxpayer, there was a third option that did not make it on the ballot.
Former San Diego City Councilman, Carl DeMaio, proposed a plan for a new Chargers stadium that would utilize private funding instead of taxpayer subsidies.
Partnering with several prominent real estate developers and contractors, all from the private sector, DeMaio and his team designed a proposal which promised to utilize, “a creative design that mixes 365-days of hotel, retail, and event uses.”
By creating a more diverse facility, whose services are not limited to football alone, DeMaio’s plan opens the door to a broader range of investors. Additionally, San Diego only hosts ten NFL events per year, so there will often be periods of time when the new stadium goes unused. Since DeMaio’s plan would create a multi-use infrastructure, with the potential to bring in revenue 365 days a year, the economic benefits of his plan are undeniable, especially when considering the new jobs that will be created as a result.
One of the main ideas behind the private stadium proposal is the notion that those who fund the project should also be the ones who profit from its success. Currently, individuals are forced to fund athletic venues with their tax dollars while the team itself reaps the benefits from the profits earned. DeMaio’s plan would allow the NFL team to profit when it uses the stadium, but it would also allow the retail, hotel, and other investors to bring in revenue and make a profit when the stadium would have otherwise gone unused.
Now that both stadium measures have failed to gain public support, the Chargers may be more open to exploring unconventional funding options. While no one is sure what the team’s next move will be, DeMaio’s private stadium proposal is still very much in play and is needed now, more than ever.
To be sure, local support for professional athletics has been, and will continue to be, a great tool for bringing communities together. However, there are better ways to bring about this desired goal than forcing taxpayers to subsidize professional sports associations.