Everyone Wants A Taxpayer-Funded Stadium, Except Taxpayers

Editorial written by James Baughn on Wednesday, April 12, 2000

from the best-government-money-can-buy dept.

ST. LOUIS -- It's good to be the owner of a sports franchise. Not only do you rake in millions from inflated ticket prices and exorbitantly marked-up concessions, but you can convince the state into chipping in money to build or maintain your stadium. The Rams pulled that off with the Trans World Dome, and now the Cardinals want to replace Busch Stadium. The scent of state tax money is now out in the open, and everybody wants a piece of it.

The Cardinals recently unveiled the plans for a new stadium with a timetable for opening in 2004. The cost? About $370 million, of which about $250 million would come indirectly from taxpayers. The plan is to finance the new stadium by allowing the Cardinals to keep a portion of the sales tax revenue generated at games. This method is better than an outright welfare handout for a new stadium, but it's still taxpayer money that is being diverted from city and state funds.

When the Cardinals announced their funding scheme, the Blues were quick to jump in and clamor for their share. The hockey team wants to keep a portion of their sales tax revenue for maintenance of the Kiel Center. It's a wonder the Rams haven't also jumped on the "Divert-O-Tax" bandwagon, but it's only a matter of time. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see businesses of all stripes demand similar treatment.

We at The Cape Rock wouldn't mind such preferential treatment from the state, either. We could build an extravagant hundred floor World Headquarters Complex(tm) in downtown Cape, and then advertise it as a tourist attraction. "Cape Girardeau: The only small town to have a skyscraper!" The state could float us some no-interest bonds, just like the Cardinals are lobbying for, and then we'd pay them off from the sales tax proceeds generated by the sudden onslaught of tourists.

Okay, you can quit laughing now. I admit, such a plan is stupid, but it's not that much different than what the Cardinals propose. A new stadium -- especially one with a slightly smaller seating capacity -- isn't going to coax any additional tourists to travel to St. Louis. Indeed, the design of the new complex, depicted in Architectural Renderings released by the team, might actually scare away fans. I could easily see the residents of St. Louis referring to the new stadium as the BUBE ("Big Ugly Brick Eyesore").

The bill pending in the House, HB 1357, to allow financing for the stadium is currently stalled. An article from Missouri Digital News reports that Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Crestwood) is dead set against the plan, calling it a way for the owners to "socialize their losses and privatize their profits."

He even joked that Jesse James would be proud of their proposal.