Who Said Politics Has Nothing To Do With Sports?

1044364_526390620750120_713465887_nThings are rough in Detroit. Being the largest municipality in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy, everyone is watching how things play out in the Motor City. The infrastructure is crumbling. 911 calls are going unanswered. And the number of self-defense related murders are skyrocketing.

But at least they might be getting a new taxpayer funded sports arena!
You heard that right.

In the midst of the all the drama that’s playing out in the city, plans for a new stadium are still going ahead for the city’s beloved hockey team, the Red Wings. The proposed 650,000 square foot arena would take up four blocks in the middle of downtown Detroit. And the City Council has to decide whether they should pitch in $45 million towards the $650 million price tag.

They’ve scheduled a vote for later this month.

It won’t be a surprise if they vote to spend the $45 million the city doesn’t have for a sports stadium. Spending taxpayer money for stadiums and arenas like this happens all around the country.

Sports franchises know they can hold the city hostage and threaten to move to another city if their demands aren’t met. In Detroit’s case, over 40% of the new arena’s total costs will be covered by state and local government tax dollars. It’s a pretty sweet deal getting your own fans to pay for the stadium, and then charging them again when they attend the games.

The same scenario has played out in places like New York, Miami, and Atlanta. George Steinbrenner threatened to move the New York Yankees to New Jersey if the city didn’t help pay for the team’s new stadium. Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Miami Marlin, helped add $2.4 billion in debt to the city’s ledger. And the Atlanta Falcons just received a nice $200 million payout from the city for their new stadium.

Time after time, politicians rationalize that these funds will inject new life and business into impoverished neighborhoods. But that’s never the case.
Now the city of Detroit gets to decide whether that $45 million would be better spent getting the city back on its feet or padding the wallets of wealthy team owners. Will they do the right thing?

Don’t hold your breath.