Great stadium debate

By the taxpayers. Maybe I was really naive before, and maybe I didn’t clearly understand the ramifications, either, but I would get excited to hear about and read about new sports stadiums.

Hey, that’s neat, I would think. Boy, those old stadiums that are all round and have their AstroTurf need to be replaced.

That was then, this is now. As we have continued into a recession and struggle to get out, it occurred to me that spending hundreds of millions on stadiums is ludicrous.

Let’s stop there for this tangent: I’m not saying that money should be spent on more government programs. I’m a limited-government guy. I expect the government to provide things like roads for transportation and public safety.

Basically, there is so much glut in the budgets of cities, counties, states and the country. Adding stadium financing should not be one of them. And I do not want to be hypocritical when it comes to government handouts.

That said, even when it comes to my favorite NHL team, the Red Wings, I don’t want to see taxpayer money going to it. Unfortunately, it’s already done.

Maybe part of the problem was my affinity for old Tiger Stadium. I was 12. Young and impressionable. I went to a dozen or so games there. The newness of Comerica Park didn’t wipe away a boy’s memories of The Corner.

I believed The Corner just needed some renovating. It didn’t need to sit empty and then rot like so many other parts of Detroit.

Now we have gone through a huge construction boom in the past 30 years. Nearly every MLB team has a new stadium. The same for the NFL.

But I look at legendary ballparks and stadiums. Places like Lambeau, Wrigley and Fenway. Yankee Stadium should have been renovated. It is possible.

Instead, Atlanta is replacing the stadium from the 1996 Summer Olympics. Word is the Texas Rangers are looking to replace their ballpark in Arlington.

Some ballparks definitely needed replacing. In some cases, still need replacing. Both the home of the Tampa Bay Rays and the home of the Oakland A’s/Raiders need to be dealt with.

That doesn’t mean that the taxpayers should be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Certainly when a factory is enticed to come to an area, tax breaks are offered. That, to a point, is somewhat understandable. The point is that if the break offered is too steep, when the sun sets on the break, what prevents the company from shopping around for another factory and leaving the current one as an empty shell.

Even here, though, the tax break isn’t an outright cash infusion into a complex paid for at least half of which by the taxpayer but the officials have little to no say on the operation of the complex.

Another aspect that I really disagree with is the land grab that goes with it at times. A particular instance I disagree with is negotiation between Wayne County and the folks trying to bring MLS soccer to Detroit over the delayed Wayne County jail site in downtown.

If the owners, made rich off of lucrative TV rights and their own businesses that allowed them to invest in the team in the first place, can’t afford a home for said teams, perhaps they should look for other private investors first before trying to take on the public as an investing partner.


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