Community Contributor
7:00 am
Tue June 4, 2013

The Hidden Truths Behind Publicly Funded Stadium Deals

The Miami Dolphins sought tax money to upgrade SunLife Stadium.

Editor's Note: WLRN-Miami Herald News asked members of the Public Insight Network to respond to the news that South Florida would not host Super Bowl 50 and 51.   

People who love sports tend to support whatever deal their local team proposes to the community. Too often this support is without questions. When an arena or stadium is proposed, a long list of community benefits are mentioned. The studies that support the assertions, assuming any study is made, are usually paid for by the team owners. Few supporters note the conflict of interest and even fewer note other studies that suggest community benefits are few if any. 

Knowing who is a legitimate supporter and who is a paid cheerleader is difficult to discern. In our community, no stranger to corruption, when a public official supports a stadium deal it is hard not to suspect some sort of qui pro quo. This is true of quasi-governmental departments as well -- chamber of commerce organizations, etc..

As residence of the community know, during the winter Miami is a popular place. The proof can be found if one tries to book a hotel room for a relative; it is usually difficult an expensive. Yet supporters of public stadium funding use tourism and the money they bring to the community as the keystone of their argument. And on its face, it sounds rational. But measuring the real benefits of a sports team on a community is hard. And there are valid studies that question whether the benefits are more illusionary rather than real. But that does not stop supporters from repeating the mantra over and over. 

For every project projections and promises are made before public funding is nailed down. But the memories of supporters are weak. The Marlins made promises as did the Heat. The promises and projections have not been kept. I strongly suspect this pattern is true in other communities.

One of the mantras voiced from the team owners is that it will not cost the local community a dime. Others would be taxed. Supporters fail to note that the law that restricts the tax to specific usages can be modified and expanded. Noting this means that the funds can be used for almost any community need. 

So what we have in this community is a large group of passionate supporters who parrot the talking points supplied by  sports owners without noting contradictory assertions and forgetting previous broken promises. They support a tax on a finite number of tourist covering a 30-year period: a tax that cannot be increased indefinitely.  A tax that, if it comes up short, must be supplement by  general public funds. And a tax, if there is the political will, can be used for other community projects. Yet they feel this is reasonable. Fortunately, I think, most of the rest of the community does not think the same.

Sid Kaskey is a retired law librarian. Find him on Twitter here.

This post came from a member of the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with The Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a news source for WLRN by going to WLRN.org/Insight.