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Steve Donkin, Candidate for the Statehood-Green Nomination for 
Mayor in the September 10, 2002 Primary Election
Flyer on Baseball Stadium
June 2002

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BRING MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TO D.C.?

YES!

BUT BUILD A TAXPAYER SUBSIDED STADIUM DOWNTOWN?

NO!

SAY NO TO PUBLIC FUNDING OF STADIUMS!

SAY NO TO BUILDING A STADIUM AT MT. VERNON SQUARE!


Six Strikes Against This Foul Idea!

STRIKE 1: WE CANíT AFFORD IT

How many times have parents of kids attending crumbling public schools heard this from city officials? How many times have advocates for keeping or rebuilding D.C. General Hospital heard this from Mayor Anthony Williams, the pro-privatization forces and the old Control Board? Yet, the Mayor has, without consulting the D.C. Council or the public, committed the city to provide private investors with up to $200 million and the use of public land free of charge to build a new stadium ó with the apparent front-running choice being an 18-acre site at Mt. Vernon Square in the historic Shaw neighborhood. If the new, privately financed George Washington Hospital now under construction (with a projected cost of $94 million) is any guide, the cost of a new public hospital would be about half of what the Mayor has pledged to the Fed Malek-led baseball investment group. Or consider a February 20, 2002 Washington Post article about the Washington region's Transportation Planning Board delaying for one year spending $38 million on a program to ease pollution caused by vehicle exhaust. One of the reasons for the delay, according to the article, is that area transportation officials in the Maryland, Virginia and the District "said the cash-strapped states and District cannot afford the $38 million expenditure." If we can't "afford" things that truly affect citizens' education, health and well-being, how can we then justify spending huge sums of public money for a stadium? If this really a top priority? Is this a "fiscally responsible" use of our money?

STRIKE 2: THE MAYOR AND THE D.C. SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMISSION PLAN TO SUBSIDIZE BILLIONAIRES

Billionaire Fred Malek and the investment group attempting to bring a team to Washington, D.C., reportedly have personal wealth totaling more than $3 billion, according to a website touting the new stadium. How can Mayor Williams and the Sports & Entertainment Commission justify giving this well-heeled group $200 million and free use of the land to build a new stadium? What happened to that "free market" that is usually revered by the business community? 

STRIKE 3: FOR WHOM ARE WE BUILDING THIS STADIUM?

Baseball is a great game, but the Mayor's plan is designed to aid wealthy investors who in turn will cater mainly to the well-to-do. The Washington Post (December 30, 2001) reported that an analysis by the private Team Marketing Report said that the average cost of a family of four attending a major league baseball game in 2001 was $145.83. The same article, noting the "white collar-ization" of professional sports fans, reported that the average income of Baltimore Orioles' fans was $87,000, which, the newspaper quoted Rick Burton as saying, means "Orioles fans came from the relatively narrow upper end of the market." Burton, executive director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, added that, "Ticket prices are no longer affordable to the middle class on a regular basis." To which we would add not at all affordable to lower income people. And given the economic demographics of the D.C. metropolitan area compared to the Baltimore metropolitan area, costs of ticket prices and refreshments in Washington could be expected to be even higher than in Baltimore. Sports franchises count on skybox and season ticket holders -- and in D.C. that primarily means blue-chip law firms, corporations, corporate lobbyists and upper income fans. The same Post article quoted David Carter, a sports-industry consultant who teaches at the University of Southern California's graduate school of business: "by catering to the corporate fan ... [team owners] broke the connection kids have with sports." 

STRIKE 4: SHAW NEIGHBORHOOD ALREADY UNDER SIEGE

The new, gigantic Convention Center under construction at Mt. Vernon Square has already displaced many small businesses and will continue to squeeze out moderate- and low-income homeowners, renters and small businesses in the Shaw neighborhood -- through intense traffic and related parking problems, air pollution, rising real estate prices, and pressures for more upscale commercial development to service the Convention Center. Now, Shaw faces the threat of investors building a huge stadium on an 18-acre plot in this same neighborhood. As the InTowner newspaper put it in March 1999 (in an item headlined: "More Circuses in the Guise of Economic Development"): "Baseball is good, but in its place. And its place is not on prime downtown land bordering on the historic low-density area of the Shaw neighborhoods. Its place is at RFK Stadium, where there is already lots of space, not to say anything of a stadium that could be retrofitted, convenient to Metro and parking and the existing freeway system." 

STRIKE 5: PUBLIC HAS BEEN SHUT OUT OF THE PROCESS

Neither the Sports & Entertainment Commission nor the D.C. Council have held any hearings on the pros and cons of public financing of a baseball stadium, or on any prospective site for such a stadium. Closed-door negotiations between the Malek investment group, the Sports & Entertainment Commission and the Mayor have been the order of the day. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Yardley defined the issue succinctly (January 28, 2002): "... [T]his is not a matter to be decided by the city's power elite in closed-door meetings.... Huge amounts of public money will be spent in the construction of a ballpark (though wealthy private interests will profit most from it) and the lives of ordinary citizens will be deeply affected by its location." In opposing a downtown stadium site, the respected planning organization, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, said Mt. Vernon Square area citizens want a "residential, in-town neighborhood." In a letter to the Mayor last January, the Committee of 100 also said: "We reject the notion that various site options should be left open for ownership groups to decide. The better play is for cities to determine which locations present opportunities ... and do this by fully and openly involving the public in making those decisions." 

STRIKE 6: WHAT DO NEUTRAL EXPERTS SAY?

Those experts who don't have a financial stake in the outcome have uniformly warned in books, scholarly studies, reports and articles against the siren song of public financing for stadiums. Some examples: 

The City of New York's Independent Budget Office, in a study of the "economics and financing of stadiums for the Yankees and Mets" reported as one of its principal findings: "Research consistently finds that new stadiums do not produce economic growth in metropolitan areas. These results imply that stadiums do not lead to increases in tourism, nor do they serve as a significant attraction to non-retail establishments. To the extent that stadiums benefit the businesses near them, the benefits reflect the expenditures of metropolitan area residents." The study added: "Heavy use of city funds for stadium construction would raise issues of equity, since city taxpayers would subsidize the stadium but relatively wealthy fans from the suburbs would share in the benefit." 

Robert Baade and Alan Sanderson, who teach sports economics at Lake Forest College and the University of Chicago, respectively, wrote: "...[C]onstructing a stadium at public expense creates a reverse Robin Hood effect ó taking from the poor and giving to the rich. Taxpayers in general end up increasing the wealth of franchise owners and players, and subsidizing the entertainment of fans. . . ."

Roger G. Noll, professor of economics at Stanford University, and Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College, summarized as follows the results of their own studies and those of 15 collaborators as reported in their book, Sports, Jobs and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. The book examines the economic development argument made for publicly subsidized sports stadiums in communities across the country: "In every case the conclusions are the same. A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus." 

Adam M. Zaretsky, economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, wrote: "The use of public funds to lure or keep teams begs several questions, the foremost of which is, 'Are these good investments for cities?' The short answer to this question is 'No.' When studying this issue, almost all economists and development specialists (at least those who work independently and not for chambers of commerce or similar organizations) conclude that the rate of return a city or metropolitan area receives for investment is generally below that of alternative projects. In addition, evidence suggests that cities and metro areas have invested heaviest in sports stadiums and arenas have, on average, experienced slower income growth than those that have not." He added: "The weight of economic evidence ... shows that taxpayers spend a lot of money and intimately don't get much back. And when this paltry return is compared with other potential uses of the funds, the investment, almost always, seems unwise." Such public funding means that certain "civic initiatives ó education, housing and transportation, for example ... are passed over or forgotten in favor of a new stadium."

STEVE DONKIN FOR MAYOR
D.C. STATEHOOD GREEN PARTY

Donkin for Mayor Committee: Philip Barlow, Treasurer
Contact the Donkin Campaign at (202) 986-9438 and at sdonkin@smart.net

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