From the frying pan into the fire
Now, we learn that Larry Lucchino and company want to have taxpayers build a new stadium for the Pawsox team. It is a sleight of hand. The state will construct the stadium (projected in one study at a cost of $78 million plus bond interest (Pawtucket) and in another (Providence) at $150 million with interest on the bond factored in) with an alleged "significant contribution" from the franchise. I expect the General Assembly will float a bond for this ridiculous proposal whose costs border on those of the 38 Studios deal. Just like that ill-conceived plan it will fly off the shelf — unless you put the kibosh on it by contacting your legislators. A bond referendum makes it look like a democratic process is at work, yet, the billionaire Red Sox franchise will pour money into an ad campaign that will bombard the airways with fanciful promises, without any opponents having the wherewithal to counter their rosy promises.
There isn’t one recent study that supports the merits of a publicly financed sports stadium. Bottom line? Taxpayers lose. Here’s why:
Public money for private gain.
Taxpayers providing any subsidies, let alone constructing a sports stadium, is corporate welfare, pure and simple. Public subsidies go directly into the pockets of team owners and raise the value of the franchise. There is a negligible economic benefit and probably a negative return since the stadium merely diverts folks' entertainment dollars from one venue to another. Query why one group of people should subsidize somebody else’s entertainment? If you love going to a movie and dining out, you use your own dime and don’t ask the rest of the state to pay for you.
Destroys jobs and lowers wages.
Studies abound that after the construction of a stadium that produced construction jobs, stadiums reduce employment and drive up unemployment insurance costs since the minimum wage jobs of workers are seasonal and they end up collecting unemployment.
Attendance at minor league team games has ebbed.
In a little over a decade, attendance at Pawsox games has dropped by 200,000 attendees. Millennials are not fans of baseball so there is no generational replacement for attendance. Research shows that with newer stadiums attendance increases (the honeymoon period) during the first year then dramatically crashes after year five. Just think about it. If there was a great economic benefit, wouldn’t the Red Sox organization put their own money into the project? Instead, they are pushing the financial woes onto your back, who not only have to be responsible for construction costs and overruns but also maintenance. I know of no reasonable taxpayer here who wants to go on the hook for the politicians to use the “new stadium” as their playground to award jobs to their supporters. I, for one, cannot stomach the thought of the award of contracts for drinks, food, etc. to the politically connected. It’s bad enough that such contracts are awarded for state beach franchises. Now, you’d be opening up another fertile field for cronyism.
Diverts resources from funding priorities.
Forget fixing that toxic school building and structurally deficient roads. You eventually will have a near-empty stadium to support.
If Kevin O’Leary (of the show "Shark Tank") lived in Rhode Island, he’d tell you to stop the madness!
Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.