Sun, Jul

When Emotion Gets in the Way of Good Decision-Making


FOOTBALL STADIUM MATH - When the manager of San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium told the facility’s advisory board that the city would be better off financially if the upcoming football season were cancelled, people got new insight into the world of professional football and the deals that politicians agreed to in order to keep their home teams happy.

Because San Diego owns the stadium, Stadium Manager Mike McSweeney explained, it has ongoing costs for upkeep. The costs increase whenever there is a game, and the city’s contract with the Chargers doesn’t permit the city to recoup those costs.

When it’s all added up, the city runs $1 million in the red each year the Chargers are in San Diego.

Of course this isn’t the way the downtown stadium proposal from the Anschutz Entertainment Group is shaping up.

However, it serves as a warning to elected officials who, upon finding themselves faced with the strain of retaining their city’s team or the opportunity to steal one from another city, find themselves acting more like sports fanatics than good dealmakers.

Up north, Oakland officials went off the deep end in order to coax the Raiders to return in 1995.

In that deal, the Raiders rent the Oakland Alameda Coliseum for a little over $500,000 a year along with a few bucks from parking and concession revenue. But it costs the county $5 million a year to operate the stadium.

It’s a good guess that Oakland is hoping for long labor dispute.

In Buffalo, the county pays the Bills $4 million a year along with providing transportation on game days. But if the labor dispute cancels the season, the taxpayers will only have to pay $2.5 million for stadium upkeep.

Despite a state budget in Minnesota that is $5 billion in the hole, it appears that the politicians are willing to use $600,000 worth of public dollars to ensure that the beloved Vikings don’t leave.

In Cincinnati, the county shows a deficit of $16 million each year to pay off the bonds used to build new stadiums for the Bengals and Reds.

Even in Arlington, Texas where the Dallas Cowboys play, city leaders rewarded the football’s most valuable franchise by taking on $308 million in debt to build Cowboys Stadium a couple of years ago.

It must have been easy for the team to play off the emotions of the mayor and City Council because the team makes only $500,000 in annual rent payments.

After Jacksonville, Florida failed to convince the Houston Oilers and Baltimore Colts to move, the city won the bidding to become one of two expansion teams in 1993. Today they are mentioned as one of the franchises possibly to move to Los Angeles because of weak community support for the team.

It would be interesting to dredge up all of those economic reports that likely predicted that if Jacksonville could snag professional football team unemployment in northern Florida would drop to zero, crime would disappear, and tourists would have to come to town days early to stand in line for tickets.

Wouldn’t it make sense to be assured that the AEG proposal is a good one before committing to it? Instead the discussions have been shrouded in secrecy. We know more about the Kennedy assassination and the Seal Team Six than we know about this deal.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl has been asking the kind of questions that you would expect a steward of the city treasury to ask, and that has made him the target of those inside and outside of City Hall who seem satisfied to give the developer whatever he wants. No questions asked please.

These are the kind of people who only Bernie Madoff could love.


(Greg Nelson participated in the birth and development of the LA Neighborhood Council system and served as the General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. He also served as Chief of Staff for former City Councilman Joel Wachs. Nelson now provides news and issues analysis to CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected] .) Photo Credit: LA Times -cw


Tags: San Diego, Qualcomm Stadium, football stadium, Chargers, Raiders, Oakland, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Bengals, Reds, City Council, Texas, Cowboys






Vol 9 Issue 54

Pub: July 8, 2011



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