Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, Page 3

Brookings Institution Press
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America is in the midst of a sports building boom. Professional sports teams are demanding and receiving fancy new playing facilities that are heavily subsidized by government. In many cases, the rationale given for these subsidies is that attracting or retaining a professional sports franchise—even a minor league baseball team or a major league pre-season training facility--more than pays for itself in increased tax revenues, local economic development, and job creation.

But are these claims true? To assess the case for subsidies, this book examines the economic impact of new stadiums and the presence of a sports franchise on the local economy. It first explores such general issues as the appropriate method for measuring economic benefits and costs, the source of the bargaining power of teams in obtaining subsidies from local government, the local politics of attracting and retaining teams, the relationship between sports and local employment, and the importance of stadium design in influencing the economic impact of a facility.

The second part of the book contains case studies of major league sports facilities in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and the Twin Cities, and of minor league stadiums and spring training facilities in baseball. The primary conclusions are: first, sports teams and facilities are not a source of local economic growth and employment; second, the magnitude of the net subsidy exceeds the financial benefit of a new stadium to a team; and, third, the most plausible reasons that cities are willing to subsidize sports teams are the intense popularity of sports among a substantial proportion of voters and businesses and the leverage that teams enjoy from the monopoly position of professional sports leagues.

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About the author

Roger G. Noll is professor of economics at Stanford University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Mar 1, 2011
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Business & Economics / General
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Athletes compete for national honor in Olympic and World Cup games. But the road to these mega events is paved by big business. We all know who the winners on the field are—but who wins off the field?

The numbers are staggering: China spent $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and Russia spent $50 billion for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Brazil's total expenditures are thought to have been as much as $20 billion for the World Cup this summer and Qatar, which will be the site of the 2022 World Cup, is estimating that it will spend $200 billion.

How did we get here? And is it worth it? Those are among the questions noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist answers in Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. Both the Olympics and the World Cup are touted as major economic boons for the countries that host them, and the competition is fierce to win hosting rights. Developing countries especially see the events as a chance to stand in the world's spotlight.

Circus Maximus traces the path of the Olympic Games and the World Cup from noble sporting events to exhibits of excess. It exposes the hollowness of the claims made by their private industry boosters and government supporters, all illustrated through a series of case studies ripping open the experiences of Barcelona, Sochi, Rio, and London. Zimbalist finds no net economic gains for the countries that have played host to the Olympics or the World Cup. While the wealthy may profit, those in the middle and lower income brackets do not, and Zimbalist predicts more outbursts of political anger like that seen in Brazil surrounding the 2014 World Cup.

American public policy has had a long history of technological optimism. The success of the United States in research and development contributes to this optimism and leads many to assume that there is a technological fix for significant national problems. Since World War II the federal government has been the major supporter of commercial research and development efforts in a wide variety of industries. But how successful are these projects? And equally important, how do economic and policy factors influence performance and are these influences predictable and controllable?

Linda Cohen, Roger Noll, and three other economists address these questions while focusing on the importance of R&D to the national economy. They examine the codependency between technological progress and economic growth and explain such matters as why the private sector often fails to fund commercially applicable research adequately and why the government should focus support on some industries and not others. They also analyze political incentives facing officials who enact and implement programs and the subsequent forces affecting decisions to continue, terminate, or redirect them. The central part of this book presents detailed case histories of six programs: the supersonic transport, communications satellites, the space shuttle, the breeder reactor, photovoltaics, and synthetic fuels. The authors conclude with recommendations for program restructuring to minimize the conflict between economic objectives and political constraints.

In 2013 and 2014, some of Massachusetts' wealthiest and most powerful individuals hatched an audacious plan to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston. Like their counterparts in cities around the world, Boston's Olympic boosters promised political leaders, taxpayers, and the media that the Games would deliver incalculable benefits and require little financial support from the public. Yet these advocates refused to share the details of their bid and only grudgingly admitted, when pressed, that their plan called for billions of dollars in construction of unneeded venues. To win the bid, the public would have to guarantee taxpayer funds to cover cost overruns, which have plagued all modern Olympic Games. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chose Boston 2024's bid over that of other American cities in January 2015-and for a time it seemed inevitable that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would award the Games to Boston 2024. No Boston Olympics is the story of how an ad hoc, underfunded group of diverse and engaged citizens joined together to challenge and ultimately derail Boston's boosters, the USOC, and the IOC. Chris Dempsey was cochair of No Boston Olympics, the group that first voiced skepticism, demanded accountability, and catalyzed dissent. Andrew Zimbalist is a world expert on the economics of sports, and the leading researcher on the hidden costs of hosting mega-events such as the Olympics and the World Cup. Together, they tell Boston's story, while providing a blueprint for citizens who seek to challenge costly, wasteful, disruptive, and risky Olympic bids in their own cities.
A critical look at the tension between the larger role of the university and the commercialization of college sports

Unwinding Madness is the most comprehensive examination to date of how the NCAA has lost its way in the governance of intercollegiate athletics—and why it is incapable of achieving reform and must be replaced. The NCAA has placed commercial success above its responsibilities to protect the academic primacy, health and well-being of college athletes and fallen into an educational, ethical, and economic crisis.

As long as intercollegiate athletics reside in the higher education environment, these programs must be academically compatible with their larger institutions, subordinate to their educational mission, and defensible from a not-for-profit organizational standpoint. The issue has never been a matter of whether intercollegiate athletics belongs in higher education as an extracurricular offering. Rather, the perennial challenge has been how these programs have been governed and conducted.

The authors propose detailed solutions, starting with the creation of a new national governance organization to replace the NCAA. At the college level, these proposals will not diminish the revenue production capacity of sports programs but will restore academic integrity to the enterprise, provide fairer treatment of college athletes with better health protections, and restore the rights and freedoms of athletes, which have been taken away by a professionalized athletics mentality that controls the cost of its athlete labor force and overpays coaches and athletic directors.

Unwinding Madness recognizes that there is no easy fix to the problems now facing college athletics. But the book does offer common sense, doable solutions that respect the rights of athletes, protects their health and well-being while delivering on the promise of a bona fide educational degree program.

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