The Rams’ Dome Dilemma in the Wall Street Journal

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the forthcoming taxpayer holdup by the Big Football/St. Louis City Government gang. The gist:

The fight to save St. Louis’s NFL franchise comes at a tough time. The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri together still owe $153 million on the downtown dome and face deep budget cuts in other areas. But they are proposing a $124 million plan to build new club seats and a 50,000-square-foot plaza at the dome—with nearly half the cost funded by taxpayers.

In Los Angeles, taxpayers would pay almost nothing for the proposed stadiums.

Economists say large cities often fare better than smaller markets in stadium deals with professional sports teams because they can offer franchises a bigger base of potential fans, and because the larger cities are less reliant on a team to help shape their area’s image.

Despite evidence that these investments rarely pay off in purely economic terms, smaller-market cities continue to offer sports teams millions of dollars in hopes the investments will pay off by improving the quality of life, aiding in the recruitment of new businesses and burnishing their national reputation. Minneapolis and Minnesota are offering more than $600 million for a new Vikings football stadium. And Indiana still owes $649 million on the Colts’ four-year-old stadium.

Two decades after the Rams arrived from Los Angeles, St. Louis is offering millions to try to close an escape clause that could allow the team to return to the glitz of its former home. Jack Nicas has details on The News Hub. Photo: Getty Images

In larger markets, however, cities have managed to keep taxpayers largely off the hook for stadiums, such as the New York Giants’ and Jets’ $1.6 billion, two-year-old stadium and the San Francisco 49ers’ planned $1.02 billion stadium.

Indeed, taxpayers have shouldered about four-fifths of the funding for NFL stadiums in the eight smallest media markets with new facilities since 1995, according to an analysis of data from the consulting firm Convention Sports & Leisure International. During that period, taxpayers have funded less than a fifth of the cost of NFL stadiums in the eight largest media markets where new facilities have been built or are planned, according to the data.

“Investments” in public/private partnerships always work out for the private half, don’t they? The public? Not so much.

Bear this in mind when the state cuts benefits to certain constituencies and when local cities cannot provide basic services like police protection or animal control without additional taxes.