Saturday, April 13, 2013

Big League Confusion

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not a big fan of cliche as public policy. The current fervor over a new basketball arena in Milwaukee is full of them. Dan Cody recently opined, "Milwaukee [is] not only deciding on new stadium for the Bucks, but whether we're a major American city anymore."

Yes, without a professional sport team, we're not "big league." Sigh.

Cody proclaims, "Everyone agrees that the Bucks will need a new stadium in order to stay in Milwaukee." Everyone? I'll agree that nearly every professional-sport team-owner blackmails their host city into funding the majority of the cost for a new stadium.

It's all about Milwaukee's image. Where would Milwaukee be without the Bucks? (Stop laughing.)

In explaining what a "huge deal" it is to have a pro team, Cody rattles off Green Bay, Jacksonville, Nashville and Oklahoma City as examples of the transformative power of hosting a pro team. Yes, we all know what world-renowned tourist destinations these locales are. Look out Paris and New York, here's Nashville!

This is the intangibles argument. There's just something that can't be explained, but it's magical and it's a big deal. It just can't be quantified. We're supposed to make a multi-million dollar investment based on the idea of being cool, big league, etc.

Maybe we should be talking about the monopoly control professional sports have over the numbers and locations of teams, and thus their ability to blackmail cities.

Milwaukee already has a basketball and a baseball team. Yet, Cody offers, "Milwaukee is already seen by much of the Country as a city on the decline and giving up our NBA team will only increase that perception." So why isn't Milwaukee already "big league"? If sports teams are such catalysts, why is Milwaukee "on the decline"? We recently built (2001) Miller Park, shouldn't this have eased the decline? Why didn't Miller Park make us "big league"?

And, if logic hasn't been stretched far enough in this ridiculous debate cities have over providing more corporate welfare to team owners, Cody goes on to say, "This City and the area need to give people a reason to want to move here." The Bucks are already here. Where are all the young professionals attracted by the Bucks? Was there a boom in young professionals and activity in the City when the Bradley Center was built in 1988? (There wasn't.) Most move for family, weather, or a job, not because of a basketball team.

And, as I've repeatedly said, if stadiums are such no-brainers, such economic catalysts, why does the public have to assume most of the risk (cost)? Sports represent one-tenth of one percent of the local economy; and some think that is an overstatement.

We can't raise taxes for good jobs, for schools, for parks, for public transportation, for health care, for retirement, etc. But, to be cool, to be "big league," that's a reason for a new tax?

I like sports. It's another entertainment option for a city. But that's hardly a reason to give away millions of dollars.

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