Since 1990, more than $65 billion (in 2020 dollars) has been spent building stadiums for North America’s “Big Five” sports leagues, of which more than $30 billion has come from taxpayer subsidies. After nearly a decade of public interest in building expensive sports venues waning after the Great Recession of 2008, stadium proposals are booming in 2022, generating billions of dollars or more across the country, from Buffalo to Oakland. venue is planned.
Supporters of the stadium have made numerous arguments trying to refute the idea that taxpayer subsidies are little more than freebies to millionaire players and billionaire owners. One prime example is that sports facilities are not only home to major sports tenants, but can also be used to host a range of events. The operators of Chicago’s Soldier Field claim that “the stadium grounds now host more than 200 events a year.” Worcester officials say Polar Park, the nation’s newest (and most expensive $160 million) minor league ballpark, hosts affordable family-friendly baseball games, outdoor concerts, and other sporting events. , claimed that it “plans to host 125 events a year” involving the community. A meeting/event or even a potential polling station. But do professional sports stadiums really get more business outside of the sports they were built to house?
To answer this question, my colleagues Robert Baumann, Frank Stephenson, and I, along with undergraduate research assistants Robert Murray and Jack Muldowney, surveyed 148 researchers across 56 cities in the United States and Canada between 2000 and 2019. We tracked facility usage at the venue. The number of regular season events typically expected of the venue’s major tenants. Apparently, a reasonable number of NBA and his NHL teams share facilities, and there are several other sharing arrangements that increase utilization at some venues. To this added the number of home his playoff games observed in his year for each stadium.
Next we went to Pollstar, a trade group that tracks all major concerts and travel entertainment such as ice skating, children’s shows, comedians, Cirque du Soleil and more. Finally, we included major non-league sporting events such as US men’s and women’s national soccer team games, NCAA basketball playoffs, college bowl games, international soccer tournaments, and league all-star games. The counts here are not exhaustive, as some international soccer friendly matches and most high school sporting events are missing, but nearly every event that could result in high attendance is included. I’m here.
Data shows that most sports venues other than NBA/NHL arenas are rarely used outside of regular season games. In fact, in a typical NFL, MLB, or MLS facility, he hosts less than five major entertainment or sporting events outside of the regular season games played by the major tenants in a typical year. Except for “mega acts” like Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen, NFL stadiums are too big for most concert acts. Baseball fields are poorly designed for watching anything other than baseball. Also, MLS stadiums are not suitable for most non-football events, given the availability of similarly sized indoor venues in most cities. So outside of the big indoor arenas, the taxpayer should expect his investments in sports facilities to be wasted most of his year.
Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the University of the Holy Cross, sports economics journal.