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How to curb sports teams’ demands for free public stadiums



Until 1950 the vast majority of owners of professional sports teams built and maintained their own stadiums. Local authorities now routinely contribute between 70% and 80% of the construction of facilities, however, fearful of losing franchises and the benefits assumed to come with them.

This assumption is undercut by a 2008 Barry Law School paper, “Sports and the City: How to Curb Professional Sports Teams’ Demands for Free Public Stadiums,” which looks at the relationship between stadiums and local economic activity.

The paper, published in the Rutgers Journal of Law and Urban Policy, determines that:

  • There is little or no positive correlation between stadium construction and local economic development. Income tends to stay with the teams, because facilities are self-contained and most fans return directly home after games.
  • New facilities frequently cost more money and create fewer jobs than the best alternative public investment.
  • The burden of public funding of stadium construction is frequently born by lower- and middle-class taxpayers, many of whom are, paradoxically, priced out of newer facilities.

The author considers several broad strategies for curbing stadium subsidies, and concludes that the best approach would be a requirement for teams to share facility revenue based on the percentage of public funding.

Tags: sports

    Writer: | Last updated: April 7, 2010

    Citation: Edelman, Marc. "Sports and the City: How to Curb Professional Sports Teams' Demands for Free Public Stadiums", Rutgers Journal of Law and Urban Policy, November, 2008, Vol. 6, No. 1, 35-77.

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "In Lean Times, Miami Pays Most of Cost for New Ballpark ."

    1. If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?

    Read the full Barry Law School study titled "Sports and the City: How to Curb Professional Sports Teams' Demands for Free Public Stadiums."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.