Thursday, December 27, 2012

Field of Schemes Excerpt: Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Inner Cities

Another excerpt from the book Santa brought me, Field of Schemes How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit:
The Colts' move, clearly was something new and frightening:  a team leaving home of three decades not for lack of support (the Colts had continued to attract large crowds in its last years in Baltimore), but solely for the lure of greater profits.  "If the Colts can be moved that way," wrote the New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson following the team's midnight flight,"any other franchise area in any sport can wake up some morning to find itself without a team."
They were prophetic words.  The Colts' move may have seemed an anomaly at the time, but in retrospect it was the dawn of a new era.  In 1984, corporations large and small were learning as never before how to supplement profits by extorting money from their home towns under the threat of moving across the country or overseas.  The sports industry may have come late to this game of "corporate welfare," as it came to be known, but it soon had adopted the tactic for its own.  Whereas a manufacturing plant could win perhaps tens of millions of dollars this way, the final tab for a single sports subsidy could run as high as half a billion dollars.
The Colts' sudden move led to a series of events far beyond anything that could have been imagined that spring night.  By the time the dust had settled, another football team had been taken from its diehard fans, and two cities had undertaken the building of four new stadiums, leaving taxpayers in two states to pay close to $1 billion in construction costs.  The resulting transfer of public funds into private pockets would lay claim to public schools and fragile urban neighborhoods, leaving democratic checks and balances in shambles, and enrich a handful of owners - real-estate barons and wealthy industrialists - by hundreds of millions of dollars....
The book Field of Schemes, which has a price of $19.95, can be ordered through this link.

15 comments:

Had Enough Indy? said...

WOW !

Jon said...

Maybe Indianapolis should have it's own version, the "Field of Screams".

JT Thomas said...

So I was thinking about ordering the book, but to say that the Colts weren't facing attendance issues is a LARGE factual liberty that leads me to believe that the authors wrote to a narrative.

Flogger said...

Pro Sports teams have been relocating for decades. Perhaps the most famous was the Dodgers, and Giants moving to the West Coast, the Braves moving to Atlanta, Chicago Cardinals football team, etc.

As far as I am concerned they can move where ever they want. My objection is when these teams expect the citizens to build, operate, and maintain their stadiums.

Paul K. Ogden said...

JT, I too thought the Colts had attendance falling off in Baltimore. So I didn't get that or I figured my earlier info was wrong.

Flogger, the authors, in another section I didn't quote, talked about those other moves, including baseball relocation to the west coast. The difference back then was the corporate welfare aspect of the Colts statdium. That Indy residents paid for the stadium and gave the team a free place to play. Of course, when the Lucas Oil Stadium was built the deal got even worse.

JT Thomas said...

The attendance figures are easily verifiable. A half filled stadium for much of 80-83 doesn't match what the authors claim.

Nicolas Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

I have sent a message to co-author deMause asking for clarification of the attendance claim.

Nicolas Martin said...

One of the most important researchers addressing stadium socialism, Harvard's Judith Grant, has a new book that Neil deMause recommends profusely. Bloomberg summarizes Grant's findings.

Stadiums Cost Taxpayers Extra $10 Billion, Harvard’s Long Finds
http://goo.gl/UN694

"The highest-cost deals include Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium, where the National Football League’s Colts play; Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, home of the Bengals; and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park in baseball. In those cases, the public share of costs, once ongoing expenses are included, exceeds 100 percent of the building’s original price tag."

Maybe Ogden could do an interview with Judith Grant for his blog.

Neil deMause said...

I wrote that sentence 15 years ago for the first edition of Field of Schemes, so it's going to take a bit of digging to figure where I got it from. From what I can find now, attendance dipped some in 1983 and 1984, but there was a strike the first year and the Colts were absolutely awful both years, so I think it's fair to say that they still had a decent fan base in Baltimore; Irsay just got a sweeter offer from Indianapolis.

Jon said...

Neil, to say that Irsay got a sweeter deal doesn't begin to cover the egregious contract that Irsay got. The Colts pay 25k per game for Lucas, they get all signage, all suites, all parking, all concessions and 50% of all non-football revenue. Sweet doesn't begin to cover that deal.

JT Thomas said...

Sure attendance hadn't dropped much from 1979-1983, it stayed relatively flat, but if you look back to 1976 there is almost 15k per game drop. And 1983 would have been much lower had the stadium not sold out when the Steelers and their traveling fans not come to town.

Nicolas Martin said...

The transfer of wealth from taxpayers to sports teams is immoral plunder, but let's not ignore that this sort of corporatism is now the convention in America. For instance, the loot handed to sports teams is dwarfed by the hundreds of billions that ObamaCare will pony up to the so-called healthcare industry. By the noise you would think that it was a populist victory, but it was supported by Big Pharma, the AMA, hospitals, and the insurance industry.

It is important to focus on what the stadiums represent politically, not merely to single them out for opprobrium. Overwhelmingly, Americans of Left and Right continue to support the corporatist economics.

Flogger said...

Nicolas Martin "Overwhelmingly, Americans of Left and Right continue to support the corporatist economics."

From the Left I for one do not support Corporatist Economics. One point to make, I think most Americans do not understand the control of Corporatism.

Agree Obama Care is one more manifestation of Corporatism. I favored a Medicare for all approach.

Pete Boggs said...

The dip in attendance was likely due to performance, a la the now improved Pacers in past but recent years.

One aspect of the Colts move was reportedly a troubling eminent domain assertion by the City of Baltimore, whereby on the Monday following the weekend of their storied move to Indy- Baltimore was pursuing the matter in court. The nine tenths solution was a timely move to Indy, or so it's been said.

Anybody?