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Monday, February 16, 2009

Soccer stadium funding

Comments: Prince George's County politicians are trying to make us believe that a soccer stadium in Prince George's County will not cost the taxpayers anything. Should we believe them? I don't, especially when I read the more detailed reports about what is actually being said. Many studies have shown that stadiums for professional sports rarely pay for themselves and almost never produce enough of the promised economic development to recover the costs of stadium subsidies and related additional infrastructure.  The stadiums in Baltimore certainly don't pay for themselves--they even get over $21 million a year in lottery revenue that could probably better be used for education or public safety.

Note that the current claims seem to be that the soccer stadium will not require funds from existing tax revenues.  The pols are not promising that they will not raise new taxes for the stadium.  Nor are they promising not to raid lottery or slots revenues.  What is not being promised is probably more important than the promises that are being made.

Nobody has explained why, if this is a good investment, private investors are unwilling to finance the project.

We need to document the claims being made now so that we can find them again in the future.

D.C. United, Prince George's Officials Push for Move.
Post, 16 Feb 2009 (Marimow).
Prince George's County leaders and D.C. United soccer team officials today sought to build community support for moving the team to the county and to assure residents that no existing tax revenue would be used to build a new stadium.

But team co-owner Victor MacFarlane acknowledged that Maryland would be "on the hook" if new revenues fall short of projections, a scenario he described as unlikely because of the team's "proven track record."
* * *
Prince George's lawmakers introduced legislation in Annapolis last week that would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to sell bonds to pay for construction of a 24,000-seat venue at an estimated $180 million to $195 million cost.

MacFarlane said today that the state entity would own the stadium and that the team would pay 25 percent of the cost in the form of rent that he estimated would add up to a $50 million contribution. The remaining 75 percent would be covered by new revenue primarily from ticket sales, he said.
* * *
One by one, Prince George's officials praised the potential economic benefits of a soccer stadium and stressed that the project would not drain scarce public funds. Maryland's General Assembly is grappling with a projected $2 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2010 and Prince George's is looking close a gap of at least $102 million.

"For those out there concerned about using taxpayer resources, we want to dispel that rumor and put the myth to bed," said Del. Melony Griffith (D-Prince George's), who wore a DC United lapel pin for the occasion.
D.C. United to be Moved to Prince George's County.
wjla.com, 16 Feb 2009.
. . . Legislation by Del. Melony Griffith, D-D.C. authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority to move ahead with plans for a roughly $180 million state-of-the-art facility.

"This proposal does not require taxpayer dollars," Griffith said.
* * *
Still, not everyone is game with the new plan. Some worry given the economy, taxpayers will be on the hook.

"We have to pay for our basic services: our schools, our police and our fire, but quite frankly I want books not soccer balls in my county," noted Judy Robinson, a stadium opponent.
* * *
DC United look to Maryland for new stadium.
USA Today, 16 Feb 2009.
. . . "We will bring a significant economic development project without burdening the taxpayers," said Democratic Sen. Anthony Muse of Prince George's County. "Not only are we gaining a new business and professional sport in the county and state, but we are bringing jobs and ongoing economic benefits to our neighborhoods." . . .
DCU, Stadium, RFK, Terps
Post Soccer Insider, 16 Feb 2009 (Goff).
. . . DCU and county officials reiterated, over and over again, that the project would not be financed through the current tax structure. The club is committing 25 percent of the money. . . .

(Posted 16 Feb 2009)

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