The Super Bowl is here but what everybody’s talking about is the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, which is hosting Sunday’s game and cost local taxpayers $700 million.
While an architectural marvel, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a trap.
As explained by The Guardian, the Falcons’ owner, Arthur Blank, wanted to build a big stadium to compete with the Dallas Cowboys’ home. So in 2013, he went to the Atlanta city council and told officials he needed $300 million in bonds to build a state-of-the-art home for his team. But after many criticized his request, he decided to ask for “just” $200 million in state hotel tax money instead, promising he would foot the rest of the bill. But in the agreement between Blank and the city, a clause clearly stated that a “waterfall fund” would be created with any hotel-tax money collected after the first $200 million. This money would then be used by the stadium for future “maintenance, operation and improvement.” So instead of $200 million, or even the original $300 million Blank had requested, this clause secured enough funds to stick the taxpayer with a $700 million bill.
In other words, the public gets to enjoy their football game in a fancier environment but not much else, as studies show that big stadiums do not generate significant economic growth.
Subsidies For Sports Stadiums Distort Market Forces
As business journalist Gregory Bresiger explained in an article for the Mises Institute, subsidized stadiums make teams and players rich on the expense of the taxpayer. And because the poor local resident has nobody to advocate for him or her, team owners continue to come for more, demanding more and more taxpayer money. But to politicians, keeping teams in their cities means making fans happy. And to keep teams from escaping to greener pastures, they are willing to bend over backwards for the opportunity to use other people’s money to keep teams and their owners happy.
With the Atlanta Falcons’ home costing more than any other NFL building in the league’s history, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as it is known, serves as nothing but another reason to force other teams to compete, pressing taxpayers in their cities and states to foot the bill of shinier, larger, and more expensive stadiums.
While this may be business as usual, it wasn’t always this way.
In the past, major league teams built their own ballparks. But now, Bresiger explained, clubs find it much easier to benefit from corporate welfare. Unfortunately, we’re running out of other people’s money. How much longer will it take for people to get really upset at this scheme?