Culture

The Corner

The Rams Return to Los Angeles. Watch Them Closely, Taxpayers.

From the midweek Morning Jolt:

The Rams Return to Los Angeles. Watch Them Closely, Taxpayers.

I hate it when sports franchises move. The St. Louis Rams are about to become the Los Angeles Rams again . . . and the Oakland Raiders or San Diego Chargers could become a Los Angeles team as well.

St. Louis hadn’t had a ton of success lately on the football field, but that doesn’t mean the team’s fans aren’t taking it hard.

They took St. Louis’ Rams. They’re gone. The feckless thugs in business suits decided St. Louis isn’t suited for the NFL, and just like that, they’re in Los Angeles, as if St. Louis was an annoying, yipping dog they shooed away.

Roger Goodell, whose heart is as black as a hockey puck, saw the St. Louisans trying to save the Rams and essentially laughed. Silly old St. Louis. You think you’re an NFL city? The commissioner of the danged NFL didn’t even have the courtesy to even publicly applaud the efforts of the St. Louisans trying to get a new stadium here; on the contrary, he publicly bashed their plan, again and again. And then, had the audacity to give NFL monies to Oakland, a city that did nothing to save its own team, in efforts to save its team.

The good news is, the new stadium to be built in Los Angeles isn’t the usual extortion of the taxpayers. It’s a much better deal than usual . . . but that doesn’t mean the city isn’t going to pick up a portion of the expenses related to operating the stadium:

When developers and city officials unveiled plans last week for an NFL stadium in Inglewood, they painted a picture of a rare thing: A big-ticket project completed with no tax money whatsoever.

Turns out it’s not that simple.

Plans filed by the Hollywood Park Land Co. — a development group that includes St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke — call for a stadium that would be built with probably more than $1 billion in private money, but which would eventually recoup tens of millions from Inglewood taxpayers once it opens. It’s a relatively modest public tab in a world where upfront subsidies approaching $500 million are not unusual. But it’s not what Chris Meany, Hollywood Park’s senior vice president said last week, either.

“There will be no public dollars, no taxpayer dollars used for this project,” he said. “The entire project has been privately capitalized and is being privately funded.”

The nuance between that statement — similar claims were made by Inglewood Mayor James Butts — and tax breaks that could reach $100 million lies in the fine print of a 185-page initiative plan filed by the developers earlier this month. It includes two paragraphs of how Inglewood would eventually reimburse the project for the costs of roadwork, utility work and public parks on the nearly 300-acre site. Meany estimated those costs at $60 million. The city would also reimburse costs of security, medical services and shuttles to off-site parking during stadium events, which Butts estimated at about $8 million a year.

We love our sports teams . . . which makes it hard for local officials to say no when the team threatens to move elsewhere.

St. Louis has proposed a billion dollar waterfront stadium financed with $400 million in tax money to keep the Rams in Missouri. And the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have unveiled a plan to turn a former landfill in Carson, California, into a $1.7 billion stadium to keep the Rams from encroaching on their turf. While full details of the plan have yet to be released, it’s been reported that the financing would be similar to the San Francisco 49er’s deal in Santa Clara, which saw the team receive $621 million in construction loans paid for with public money.

Even the fiscally conservative Scott Walker is not immune to the stadium spending craze. The Wisconsin governor wants to allocate $220 million in public bonds to keep the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise in the area. Walker has dubbed the financing scheme as the “Pay Their Way” plan, but professional sports teams rarely pay their fair share when it comes to stadiums and instead use public money to generate private revenue.

If you’re looking to revitalize a local economy, an NFL stadium is just about the worst possible choice. A team will play only eight regular-season home games, two preseason games, and if they’re really lucky, one or two playoff games. At least a major-league baseball stadium hosts 81 games, and a basketball/hockey arena will be used by the home team for 41 games. Yes, stadiums can host concerts and other events. But they rarely hold enough to create a sustained economic impact in the surrounding community.

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