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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Say It Ain’t So, Joe How Sports Franchises Take the Money and Run BY LISA TOZZI FIELD OF SCHEMES: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. By Joanna Cagan & Neil deMause. Common Courage Press. 226 pages. $22.95. George Steinbrenner’s threats to move Yankee stadium from its , historic home in the Bronx are as much part of spring for New Yorkers as bluebonnets are for Texans. He wails year after year: Yankee Stadium is too old, the neighborhood too dangerous to draw crowds, and there is no way the Yankees can remain competitive without a new stadium. Never mind that the franchise is the most profitable in professional sports, won the World Series in 1996, and sits atop its division with the best record in baseball. When a 500-pound expansion joint broke loose at Yankee Stadium days before its seventy-fifth birthday in April, fans were worried less about the threat to public safety than that a hunk of metal roughly the size of a car battery might finally make Steinbrenner’s dreams of a publicly-funded stadium on the west side of Manhattan \(estimated to With decaying infrastructure all over the city, troubled schools, and underfunded services, the idea of spending more than a billion dollars to build a new home for the richest franchise in baseball may seem laughable. But Mayor Rudy Giuliani the very same mayor who has slashed social services to the bone is more than willing to cough up the dough, trying to sell New Yorkers on the faulty premise that a new economy. “If the Yankees and Mets both had new baseball fields, and they were drawing what the Indians and the Orioles draw,” Giulani said recently, “we would make back the cost of the stadium in a few years.” Giuliani should be required to read Field of Schemes, by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause. With the hearts of devout sports fans and the minds of investigative journalists, the authors look at Cleveland, Baltimore, and scores of other cities where, contrary to the claims of sports tycoons and politicians, “sports-themed urban renaissances” have done little to help taxpayers, urban residents, or even the sports fans who fund these sports palaces. Like waterside “historic” malls and other development projects often touted as revitalizing decaying city centers, the result, in many cases, instead reinforces the “dual city”: a place white surburbanites, seeking entertainment, only visit, while the mostly minority residents of poor and working-class urban neighborhoods reap few of the promised benefits. By 1997, almost half of the country’s 115 major sports franchises were either already getting new or renovated facilities, or had “requested” them \(threatening to split In Texas, every major franchise in the state is demanding a new home except the Texas Rangers, who already have a sparkling new “old-fashioned” $191 million ballpark in Arlington, courtesy of the taxpayers. Field of Schemes pokes gaping holes in the argument that a sports team is an essential ingredient to urban revitalization, a boost to a city’s image, and something that will keep people coming to and spending money in the city. The book cites compelling evidence to the contrary. Among the authorities quoted is economist Robert Baade of Lake Forest College, whose 1994 study for the Heartland Instiamong the thirty cities with new stadiums or arenas, twenty-seven showed no economic impact on their local economy over a thirty-year period. Even when there is some economic impact, Baade argues, increased municipal income is merely a result of a shift in spending from one form of entertainment to another. “If you draw larger and larger circles away from the place where the sporting event actually occurs, it’s more and more likely that you’re going to have a zero-sum game. In the case of Wisconsin, it may well be that you’re taking money away from a dog-racing track in Racine when you subsidize Brewers baseball.” Baade concludes, “Far from generating new revenue out of which other public projects can be funded, sports investments appear to be an economically unsound use of a community’s scarce financial resources.” To put it simply: stadiums and arenas do not make money for the municipalities that build them. Nevertheless, the authors note, the country is in the midst of an unprecedented stadium-building boom. Between 1980-90, U.S. cities spent roughly $750 million on building sports arenas and stadiums. The bill for the nineties is expected to be upwards of $11 billion, in public expenditures and tax abatements. Municipalities large and small are being held hostage by team owners \(who claim a new stadium is out by politicians \(who claim the team must stay if the city wants to remain “major Until the late forties and fifties, most professional teams played in privately owned facilities, built with the team owners’ money. But by the nineties, 77 percent of stadiums and arenas were publicly owned. During the same period, sports franchises have become increasingly valuable investments. Some teams, after receiving a public subsidy for a new stadium, have doubled in value. And unlike other varieties of corporate welfare say, tax breaks to keep or bring a factory to town, which might at least guarantee some decent jobs stadiums create few jobs, and those are mostly lowpaying, even below minimum wage, often for “parking garage attendants, hot-dog sales people, waiters and waitresses,” according to John Ryan, head of Communica 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 3, 1998