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Instead of Subsidizing Stadiums, Why Don’t Cities Just Take Over the Teams?

Vice Sports contributor Neil DeMause suggests that cities should exercise their eminent domain powers when local sports teams threaten to move after demanding expensive subsidies.

As Vice Sports contributor Neil DeMause writes, city governments who subsidize expensive new stadiums for local sports clubs would be wise to find better ways to spend their money. There’s been a ton written about the debate between those who see these subsidies as wise investments in local infrastructure and those who view them as despicable acts of corporate welfare. DeMause falls in the latter camp, arguing that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for giant playgrounds from which fat cat billionaires will profit. In the piece linked at the top, DeMause offers a fairly radical alternative:

“And then there were those who wondered: for $183 million, wouldn’t it have been cheaper for D.C. to skip the stadium and just buy the team?”

It would, especially for DC United. The problem is that each league’s front office plays a heavy hand in selecting franchise owners. There’s one franchise in all of the five major leagues that’s not owned by a for-profit entity — the Green Bay Packers, which is run by a non-profit controlled by the team’s fans. 

“The major pro sports leagues here have dedicated themselves to blocking it at every turn. McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc once tried to give the Padres to the city of San Diego as a charitable donation, but was overruled by MLB; a similar league edict later prevented the city of Pittsburgh from getting a share of the Pirates in exchange for a $20 million “loan” that was never repaid. The NFL was so freaked by the mere prospect of anyone trying to replicate the Packers that it wrote a ban on non-profit ownership into its league constitution. Congress considered a bill to pull leagues’ antitrust exemption for TV rights if they barred community ownership, but like just about all Congressional attempts to reign in sports leagues, it’s gone nowhere.”

So, under current conditions, it’s not likely we’ll see another Packers situation any time soon. Unless, DeMause posits, a city government gets creative:

“Say you’re a city council with a pro sports team demanding $200 million or so in public cash for a new building—let’s call them the “Milwaukee Bucks”—under threat of leaving town if its owners’ demands aren’t met. Instead of reaching for your municipal checkbook, you respond by drawing up eminent domain paperwork.”

It’s kind of a wacky suggestion, but DeMause has done enough research to support his feeling that a bold local government could utilize its eminent domain powers as leverage in negotiations. Take a look at the full piece (linked below) and let us know what you think of his idea.

Read more at Vice Sports

Photo credit: Mat Hayward / Shutterstock


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