Public Subsidies for Sports Stadiums

Position – Opposition to Public Subsidies for Sports Stadiums

October 2015

Currently Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay are working to obtain public monies to partially fund the building of a new stadium in north St. Louis for the St. Louis Rams or another National Football League team. Estimates of public funding for the $1 billion project are more than $450 million. We oppose public subsidies for sports teams for several reasons:

  • Studies have found that communities do not experience an economic boost commensurate with the subsidies they give to the NFL and team owners. Michael Leeds of Temple University says, “A major league baseball team has about the same economic impact as a small department store, and that is with 80 home games a year.”1  An NFL team generally has only 8 games a season.
  • Less obvious subsidies often include property and sales tax exemptions. It is not clear if that would be the case in St. Louis, but it is a concern.
  • Despite claims that the stadium would revitalize the city, this has not been the case in neighborhoods near stadiums in most cities, including St. Louis near the Edward Jones Dome. Often stadiums are surrounded by vast parking lots and are not well integrated into the area. Jobs created are largely low-paying hospitality jobs. 2
  • When people spend money on sporting events, it is likely they will cut the amount they spend locally on other entertainment. In addition, players’ salaries are included in calculating economic benefit, but most players do not live in the local community, so their money is not reinvested in the community that subsidizes the stadium.
  • The NFL is a profit-driven business with annual revenue of around $10 billion (and, strangely is tax exempt). Rams owner Stan Kroenke has a net worth of $7.6 billion. It makes no sense to provide economic benefit to them when public revenue could be used for other purposes-see next bullet point.
  • Mayor Slay says the tax subsidies are a good investment in the city’s future. We believe other investments would go further to provide a brighter, more secure economic and social future for a city that is facing huge deficits in education, crime, poverty, and attracting businesses. Rather than spending scarce resources on a football team that benefits relatively few, we believe government should work for the benefit of the entire community by investing in programs to train a skilled workforce, provide excellent schools, expand public transportation, improve access to health care, and reduce poverty, crime, and gun violence.

“Unfortunately, beneath all of the glitz and glamour, these venues are nothing more than monuments to corporate welfare and taxpayer handouts,” David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said in a press release. “These stadiums have been built on the backs of taxpayers who had no or little say in the matter and in many cases have benefitted little or not at all.”3

1. “Sports Stadiums Have No Impact on Municipal Economies–So Why Is It We Still Subsidize the NFL?” Daily Kos, February 2015.
2. Bill Adams, “Five Reasons Losing an NFL Football Team is Good for a City,”, Feb. 17, 2015.
3. Travis Waldron, “Taxpayers Have Spent A ‘Staggering’ Amount of Money on NFL Stadiums,”, Sept. 10, 2015