Politicians Are Once Again Giving Out Public Money For Sports Venues

A  new stadium is coming to western New York, renovated stadiums are on tap in Baltimore.

It was just a few years ago that the prevailing thought was that the days of municipalities providing the majority of the funding for baseball or football or soccer stadiums and arenas was done. Owners would pick up the cost because there was a chance that they could use the facility as the centerpiece for a stadium-village concept. But that notion has been shattered in the past two weeks. New York State is putting up $600 million while Erie County, New York is chipping in $250 million to help pay for a National Football League Buffalo Bills stadium that could cost $1.4 billion or more. In the can you top this in the stadium game, Maryland is ready to spend $1.2 billion to renovate the Baltimore Orioles baseball stadium and the Baltimore Ravens NFL facility. The two businesses will get $600 million each. The Orioles lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority ends in 2023 while the Ravens lease expires in 2028. The Maryland Stadium Authority wants both franchises to stay in Baltimore.

Politicians handing out public money for sports owners is nothing new. The concept started with the Milwaukee City Council in 1950 as the city wanted to become “big league” and the only way to do that was spend money to build a baseball stadium to attract a Major League team and also keep a portion of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers franchise’s schedule in the city. Milwaukee built the stadium and persuaded Boston Braves owner Lou Perini to move his business to town in March, 1953. In June 2018, Baltimore Sun writer Peter Schmuck had a column about the long-term future of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and whether that franchise could be on the move. An unsourced newspaper column could prompt politicians into spending money on stadiums. Municipal sports spending is back.

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Evan can be reached at evan_weiner@hotmail.com