Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An Abuse of Authority?

The Maryland Stadium Authority (MDSTAD) is the State Agency that was created in 1986 "with the mission of returning a professional National Football League (NFL) team to Baltimore and ensuring that our Major League Baseball team, the Orioles, remained in Maryland." Sounds like a somewhat dubious aim for an arm of government. After all, billionaires employing millionaires probably aren't in a position that most of us would feel merits government handouts.

So what has the MDSTAD done, and what is it up to these days? The first act of MDSTAD (and Governor Schaefer) was to build the $200 million Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The main beneficiary of this public subsidy? Eli Jacobs, who bought the team in 1989 for $70 million, and sold it in 1993, the year after Camden Yards opened, for $173 million. The return to Baltimore in terms of new jobs and incremental tax revenue, $3 million a year. Not a very good return on a $200 million investment.

The MDSTAD then undertook renovations to the Baltimore and Ocean City Convention Centers. The next big project was a $2 million retrofit of Memorial Stadium, in response to the Ravens move from Cleveland, and the eventual construction of the $220 million Raven Stadium alongside Camden Yards. The MDSTAD continues to construct projects at universities around the state, and has even constructed a minor league baseball stadium in Aberdeen. Of course, they're also now looking for some place to sink $100 million for a horse stadium.

Given that "state and local expenditures for stadiums and arenas escalated from $700 million in the mid-1970s to more than $2 billion in the early 1990s," it may be time to seriously re-think the way that we allow the wealthy individuals who are the beneficiaries of these government expenditures to continually feed at the public trough.

Is it time to dissolve MDSTAD?

A good book on the topic of public funding of sports' stadiums is Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Click the link to read it on-line.



Post a Comment

<< Home