Sunday, December 11, 2011

Economic Engine or Albatross?

Marc Marotta, the board president for the Bradley Center, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, declared the Bradley Center an economic engine.

Most of the workers are non-union, low-wage, seasonal and without benefits. Not the type of jobs most economic development aims to, nor should, create. Most of the millionaire athletes that play at the Bradley Center don't live in Milwaukee - their tax and spending dollars spillover outside Milwaukee. Often, the money spent on sporting events leaks outside the host region.

To be an economic engine, a project has to lure customers from outside the area that would not otherwise be spending money, or induce locals to spend more than they otherwise would. If people decide to go to the Bradley Center rather than a movie one night, there is no growth. This is merely a realignment of leisure spending. The majority of dollars spent at these events are simply a substitution of spending patterns (a basketball game rather than eating dinner out).

And, again, perplexingly, many whom would routinely be lumped in with the ultra-conservative, government-is-bad, no-new-taxes cabal are saying they need public dollars to continue their private entity. So...government can't do anything right, they don't know how to properly spend tax dollars...but when the government is giving millions to stadiums and arenas, they're investing wisely. Yes, screw public transportation, green energy, and modernized sewer and water systems. Sport stadiums are much more crucial to our economic future.

If extra-market forces (taxpayer subsidies) are good when it comes to stadiums, why aren't taxpayer subsidies good for public works programs, light rail, greening older buildings, or facilitating universal health care? Those subjects seem much more important to the average citizen than sporting facilities.

It's also very strange to claim the Bradley Center is an economic engine and then offer up nothing quantitative to back up that claim. But then again, actual studies looking into the effect of stadium subsidization have found that stadiums have little to minimal impact on the local economy.

For Further Reading:
Basket Case
Buck The System
Conclusions On Subsidies For Sports Franchises
Economic Impacts Of Tourism
Sports, Jobs, & Taxes
Stadiums & Convention Centers As Community Loss Leaders
The Stadium Gambit & Local Economic Development
Stadium Swindle

No comments: