Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It was fun while it lasted

Well, so much for DC baseball, at least past 2005. The DC city council, in their infinite wisdom, decided at the last second to drastically alter the agreement they had with Major League Baseball.
The legislation was amended to require private financing for at least half the stadium construction costs, a provision not contained in the September agreement between baseball and Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

In all honesty I am not quite sure what to think of this. On one level, it is fair to request that half of the money come from a private source. Major professional sports' extortion of cities has got to come to an end. Surely these billionaires can dig into their own pockets in order to construct these stadiums.

On the other hand, it is fairly unethetical to change an agreement at such a late juncture. Moreover, Linda Cropp is doing nothing more than engineering a cheap political stunt in order to boost her mayoral prospects. Unfortunately for her it will blow up in her face as it costs the city a baseball team and it also derails a project which could be a major benefit to an area that is in desperate need of development.

Critics of public funding often cite studies which purport to show that these stadiums do not generate the economic benefit their supporters claim. While I am certainly skeptical of the notion that stadiums have an enormous economic benefit, I am also skeptical of these studies, none of which I have ever seen. If anyone can lead me in the direction of one of these reports it would be most appreciated, for I would be interested in studying their methodology. It seems preposterous to me that sports venues built in a non-developed area do not provide at least some long-term economic benefits to the community. All one needs to do is look at the MCI Center and its environs to note the positive affects of such development. Further, I assume most of these studies look at stadiums constructed in cities which already have a professional sports franchise. But DC currently does not have a major league baseball team, and they will not get one long-term if this plan remains altered. How many millions in tax revenue does the city plan to gain in income taxes on the players, the mangers, and all other employers of the team? It seems that alone over the years would cover the cost of the stadium. If I'm off in my estimates, then would not the added economic activity in the area also boost revenue?

Look, if I'm wrong on the above, show me. Let me see these studies. One thing I have learned is that quantitative studies are often highly flawed and contain many shaky assumptions.

But this is all besides the point. The city council has severely bungled this entire deal, showing itself to be the incompetent body we all knew it to be. Statehood? Yeah, right.

Of course Major League Baseball is not blameless. If they had not waited so damn long to name Washington as the new location for the Expos then we would have had much more time to iron out the details and look for sources of private funding. But first it had to placate Peter Angelos, and they dithered away precious time.

This whole affair is sickening on so many levels. Such is life being a major league baseball fan living in DC.


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