Publicly Funded Stadiums and Labor Stoppages

I’m happy that hockey is back. There are others much happier than I am, however. The guys who sell nachos and beers at the Shark Tank were hurting much more than I was. The restaurant employees in downtown San Jose weren’t getting as many hours; their bosses were just hoping to make ends meet.

Yet still, around the country, cities are bankrolling new stadiums for sports teams. The politicians justify using tax dollars for sports venues citing the same vendors and restaurant employees feeling the hurt now, saying the arena will be a financial stimulus. Which isn’t completely false. Disingenuous, maybe, but not an outright lie.

Except when the team doesn’t actually play. In that case the community has dumped a shit-ton of money to make a sports owner richer, and has got nothing in return.

So here’s my humble suggestion. Every publicly-funded sports facility that enriches a privately-owned team, must come with a caveat. If the team doesn’t play, the owners are on the hook for the loss of local revenue. If the politicians selling the stadium brag, “One hundred thousand into the economy every game!” then if the team doesn’t play the game, the owner is on the hook for the $100K. I’ll build you the stadium, but I’m not taking the hit if you decide not to play.

Under Gary Betteman, Hockey has lost 10% of its games. That’s a big deal to cities like Glendale, AZ. I would love to see Glendale sue the NHL for breach of contract. “We did all these things, and you didn’t play the games.” Had Glendale pressed a suit, might the lockout have ended sooner?

Because here’s the thing. Fans form unions and whatnot, hoping to influence the petty bickering between rich men over how to divide the fans’ money. The fans’ unions (my favorite: NHLFU) have no power. But there is one place where the regular joe can be heard: Voting for a new stadium. Joe’s not so enthusiastic about paying for a stadium anymore. Can you blame him? Turns out when the stadium is complete, he can’t afford a ticket.

And then the league has the nerve to not play, leaving Joe with a mortgage payment on a billion-dollar complex, and nothing to show for it.

There should not be a stadium deal anywhere in this country, for any sport, that does not include a performance clause. To the owners: you can stop play if you want, but we’re not paying for it. You want to shut things down, you owe every vendor, every waitress nearby, every bartender in the city. I’m a fan, and I’m voting NO on any new stadium in my neighborhood that doesn’t have that provision.


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