The prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Washington has some city leaders excited, perhaps none more so than Mayor Williams and D.C. Council member Harold Brazil, who say a new team would be a huge economic boost. Don’t believe them. “Economic studies show that baseball stadiums do not promote economic benefits” regarding income growth or tax revenues, according to a new study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
Some of the facts from the study vs. the myths from the Williams administration:
“Baseball would not create good jobs for D.C. residents,” because most stadium jobs are so-called day-of-game jobs, are part-time, and offer low pay and limited benefits. While a new stadium would create these honest jobs for a honest day’s labor, the mayor has said a new stadium could create 1,000-plus new jobs. What he didn’t say, though, is that the better jobs would be for the team, such as players and front-office personnel.
“Publicly financed stadiums do not pay for themselves.” In fact, of 25 publicly financed stadiums built between 1978 and 1992, none “generated a net increase for the host city.” D.C. officials, like their counterparts in Maryland, argue that spending public dollars to build a new stadium would result in a net gain. To the contrary, Baltimore’s Camden Yards “produced $3 million in economic benefits to Maryland, while its annual public costs were $14 million.” In the District’s case, the mayor has said that a new stadium would annually generate $28.5 million in new taxes. However, $24 million would be needed to pay annual construction costs. Also, the baseball team’s revenues would not benefit the D.C. or regional economies, because most team revenues would go toward player salaries and the owners’ pockets. Moreover, the mayor’s office proposes exempting the new stadium from property taxes (a revenue-losing proposition), increasing business taxes (an unfriendly proposition) and winning congressional approval to tax player salaries (a stipulation that the players’ union might likely challenge).
There are additional costs as well, including spending $15 million to renovate the District’s existing ballpark — RFK Stadium. Also, D.C. officials would have to establish a $40 million reserve fund to ensure construction costs are paid. That’s $40 million that otherwise could go toward schools, roads or public safety.
The mayor’s plan to publicly finance a new state-of-the-art stadium is not the win-win proposal he touts it to be — for those aforementioned reasons and many others. Homeowners, for example, are worried about bottlenecks and the potential for upticks in crime around RFK Stadium and the proposed stadium site. We are concerned about those issues, as well. And we question the legal precedent that would be set if the District is permitted by Congress to establish a commuter tax on the new team’s players.
Indeed, before lawmakers vote this week on the mayor’s stadium legislation, we urge them to take an objective look at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s study, “Would a Public Financed Baseball Stadium Pay Off for D.C.?” at www.dcfpi.org. After reviewing the facts, lawmakers will reach but one conclusion: No, a public financed baseball stadium will not pay off for D.C.