Couch Slouch this week presents the first of a two-part series on stadium development in America, part of my ongoing “No More Stadiums, With or Without Tax Subsidies” effort that recently was named the fourth-least successful grass-roots movement by Grass Roots Quarterly magazine. Here’s the latest stadium update on America:
WE APPARENTLY NEED MORE OF THEM.
Indeed, we should be thankful that our expansionist forefathers and foremothers – via Manifest Destiny, the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War – had the foresight to acquire enough land to allow future generations the almost constitutional right to erect countless sports palaces with ample parking in which we can exercise our freedoms and liberties to their fullest extent, particularly on autumn Sunday afternoons.
Speaking of Sunday afternoons, the National Football League – in the midst of a half-century boom period not seen since Louis XIV ruled France in the 1600s – always is seeking new horizons for new facilities. There have been 10 new NFL stadiums completed in the last 12 years, and, God- and taxpayer subservience-willing, there are more on the way.
In Atlanta, the Georgia Dome, all of 22 years old, has been declared out-of-date. In Washington, FedEx Field is still a teenager, but Redskins owner and Native-American benefactor Daniel Snyder is looking for non-reservation public land in which to relocate his singularly offensive franchise.
(Don’t get me started on California, which soon might have more stadiums than Starbucks.)
Recently, as the Florida state legislature considered a bill to approve $255 million in taxpayer money for upgrades to the Jaguars’ NFL stadium, the Dolphins’ NFL stadium and Daytona International Speedway, House budget chief Richard Corcoran remarked, “I don’t understand how you can claim to have a fiscal crisis on health care but can find millions of dollars in subsidies for billionaire sports owners.”
It’s easy – you simply claim to have a fiscal crisis on health care and still find millions of dollars in subsidies for billionaire sports owners.
In Wisconsin last week, the levelheadedly-challenged state senate approved $250 million in public subsidies for a new arena for the NBA Bucks.
America has multiple maladies, but the stadium/arena surge is most telling: It shows we are willing to repeatedly ignore many of our ills in order to watch an endless stream of games in comfort.
Stunningly, our institutions of higher learning continue to be complicit in this mind-numbing sensibility.
At East Tennessee State, to construct a 10,000-seat football stadium, the state commission originally approved $18 million, but the cost has ballooned to $26 million; most of the money will come from a $125-a-semester student fee. Go Buccaneers!
At Florida State, the board of trustees approved issuing up to $85 million in bonds to pay for a new premium outdoor seating section, make structural repairs, repaint the stadium and update sky box suites. Go Seminoles!
At Colorado State, a new stadium will open in 2017, almost entirely funded by $239 million in bonds. Go Rams!
Heck, if Thomas Jefferson were alive today, his slave quarters at Monticello likely would’ve been converted into a basketball arena, paid for by tax-happy UVa grads.
I do have one bit of good news, and, against all odds, it comes from Minnesota, whose politicians are serial stadium subsidizers.
Minnesota is home to taxpayer-subsidized Target Center (1990; NBA Timberwolves), Xcel Energy Center (2000; NHL Wild) and Target Field (2010, MLB Twins), plus soon will be home to a taxpayer-subsidized football stadium (2016; NFL Vikings.) Minnesota leaders have spent more than $1 billion in public money on sports facilities in the past generation.
But recently, Minnesota’s rob-the-poor- and-pay-the-rich elected officials finally rejected new stadium spending, blocking any public money to fund a home for an MLS expansion team.
Then again, the framers of our great nation never envisioned any real estate being used for a soccer stadium.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Besides the fact that it is not even a sport, doesn’t ESPN promoting a hot-dog-eating contest on the Fourth of July send the wrong message to the rest of the world? (James Douglas; Reston, Va.)
A. ESPN has plenty of airtime to fill, so besides traditional sports such as baseball, football, tennis and poker, I have no problem with the boys in Bristol also occasionally showing non-sports such as competitive eating and golf.
Q. You’re a conjugal veteran – do you agree with Russell Wilson’s vow of abstinence before his wedding night? (Michael Hathaway; Spokane)
A. Asking me for marital advice is like asking Donald Trump for (fill-in-the-blank) advice.
Q. When Tom Brady plays the Colts in Indianapolis in Week 6, will we have to close the roof so that the inside atmospheric pressure remains constant? (Phil Orwick; Carmel, Ind.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.