A few DC officials haven’t stopped trying to get the Landover NFL team back to the District. Even though one dedicated champion of wooing the team, Michael Brown, is off the DC Council, Tim Craig reports that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is promoting the idea, along with Mayor Gray and dedicated sports fan Jack Evans.
Evans, perhaps reacting to criticism that he’d pour public money into the stadium, insists that the city wouldn’t spend any public money on a stadium. However, he says, the city might pay for new streets and parking lots.
It’s good he wants to make the team pay for the stadium itself, and as Craig explains, that’s likely going to make any deal not appealing to owner Dan Snyder. However, even paying for parking lots is a big expense, and a bad one. New York spent $39 million on parking lots at the new Yankee Stadium.
Plus, they ended up finding the lots going largely empty, thanks in part to a new Metro-North station at the ballpark. The garage operator ended up defaulting on the garage bonds because of low usage. Public spending on garages at any new stadium largely amounts to spending public money to encourage people not to use the Metro that we also already spend public money to operate.
Why do these apparently bad deals keep resurfacing? It’s simple: some people think that having professional sports teams here is integral enough to our civic pride that it’s worth large sums to get them, even if the deal doesn’t pay off economically and wouldn’t fly if it were a deal for just a generic private development.
A few months ago, I was on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt right after Jack Evans. We mainly talked about development without underground parking and Evans spoke to that issue as well in his segment. But they had an interesting exchange about sports stadiums, who’ve had no greater booster than Evans.
DePuyt asked Evans about plans for a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, and what the District’s subsidy might be. Evans asserted that it would pay off economically, but even if it doesn’t, he said the District should pay to bring in professional sports simply because of “civic pride”:
There’s a civic pride that comes from this. When I was pushing the baseball stadium, I used say to people, we’re we do it because we want a team. Start with that. Whether it’s economically viable or not, who cares? We want a baseball team because Washington, DC was the only major city in America without one.
Do we economically analyze every museum we build? If we did, we wouldn’t build any museums. It’s a part of our culture.
I’d note that actually, most museums get their funds from private individuals, foundations, and the federal government. The District cut arts funding during the recession, and doesn’t spend $611 million on a museum. On the other hand, it has contributed to help many local theaters and other prominent arts organizations buy and renovate their buildings over the years.