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Sports Stadiums and Logic

This tweet from the account @BleacherView came across my Twitter feed this morning:

MN has lost 2 sports teams due to inadequate facilities: Lakers & North Stars. Paid more for new teams later.

I am always trying to improve my skills in the use of logic, and I find using analogies is a great way to help people visualize a certain subject and to also a way for people to better understand my point of view.  Today’s analogy will be televisions.

Let’s say you own a television.  You buy it in 1967.  It works great up until 1993 when it needs some repair.  You really don’t have the money to fix it, so you give the TV away to someone who puts a bunch of money getting it working.  Now, a few years later you find yourself really missing TV.  Well, you go buy a new one.  Likely, it would cost a little more than what repairing your old one did, but you didn’t have the money to fix it at the time.  The new 2000 model TV also cost much more than the 1967 TV because of simple inflation.

Here’s the other question to ask in this analogy: Is television a necessity?  Television is  primarily an entertainment vehicle.  Now granted, there are some economic considerations, such as the jobs created to design, manufacture, and distribute the TVs, along with the on going benefit you provide your local cable company.  However, not everyone has a TV and those people do fine.  And again, I would argue that television is not necessary for a fulfilling life. I don’t think the government has money for the 2000 model right now anyway.

Hopefully you followed my analogy in regards to sports teams.  When it comes to government funding, I just can’t find any justification for the government to fund a sports stadium.  Professional sports is primarily an entertainment vehicle.  Should the government really be funding entertainment?  Why not fund movie theaters?  Why didn’t the government step in and bail out Blockbuster or Borders Books?  Are those not venues of entertainment where thousands of people’s jobs are affected?

The arguments for a stadium are usually the economic benefits.  Is there really a large economic benefit from a stadium?  Let me ask it another way.  If the Vikings/Twins/Wild/Timberwolves didn’t exist, would you not find some other form of entertainment?  I would guess you would still go out to dinner.  maybe you would go see your local high school or college sports team.  Those teams would benefit because the admission could be put back into the education system.  You might read more books or rent more movies.  You might go to more plays.  The idea here is that people like ways to relax and getaway.  You don’t need a sports team to convince you of that.  A stadium simply concentrates that money into a smaller area.  Likely you wouldn’t travel to a central location if the stadium wasn’t there – which is also a benefit by saving infrastructure cost and maintenance to the government.

The other consideration is how pro sports works.  The Vikings are threatening to move to Los Angeles.  Could LA really support all 30 NFL franchises.  Or 15 each in New York and LA?  Obviously, no.  The markets need to be spread out to maximize ticket sales, TV revenue, and merchandise revenue.  I guess if a team can’t make it in a market, they need to find a market where they can make it.  If a league can’t survive without government support, then perhaps the players need to get paid less so the league can be profitable.  If the current players can’t survive on $5 million per year instead of $10 million per year, well then find another job because I am willing to be quarterback for the Vikings for a nice cool $500,000.  I bet I can find a few others willing to play for alot less, and now the Vikings will have $100 million+ per year free to finance a stadium.  OK, I understand the last sentence is a stretch and who would go to the stadium when the best athletes aren’t playing.  On the other hand, that also means the stadium could be much smaller and it would cost even less.

I do understand stadiums are a much larger project, and the government would have some limited involvement with infrastructure planning.  The government would also have some role in perhaps helping to secure property and maybe even offer some property tax breaks.  I say this only because I would say it is hard to value a stadium.  When our homes are valued for property taxes, it reflects what we could sell our home for on the market.  A stadium isn’t exactly easy to sell, so I think offering some concessions on property taxes could be considered while planning for a new building.  We do already offer teams government help, such as anti-trust exemptions.

We all like TVs and we all pretty much have one.  But should the government pay for our TVs?  I wold hope you would all answer no.  We shouldn’t be forcing our friends and neighbors to pay for entertainment they might not use.  By taking the cost of stadiums off of the teams and the leagues asking for government assistance, we artificially increase their profits, allowing them to pay their players more and benefit the owners of the teams.  As much as I like watching sports, sports will survive without government help.  Elite athletes will play for less money if they have to, because they will still make far more than most of us ever will see in our lifetime.  I hope the Vikings stay, but I am not willing to have my taxes diverted from roads, education, etc. just to have a football team play 8 times a year.

Let me leave you with this last thought as we all near property tax payment time.  The Vikings want $500 million from the state in assistance.  I couldn’t find numbers on how many homes there are in Minnesota, but there is just over 5 million people.  If there is 1 million homes in Minnesota, that $500 million dollars could instead reduce all of our property tax bills by $500.  That’s alot of money to me.  I really don’t feel the Vikings have delivered $500 worth of entertainment to my house.  I have been at a few games, and have been very entertained, but I also paid for the ticket.  That’s exactly who should pay for it.

I’ll buy my own TV.

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