Sports Facilities

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Proposed Bills to Limit Public Spending on Stadiums, Arenas Not Gaining Ground

21 Mar, 2018

By: Michael Popke

Arizona is the among the latest states to shoot down a legislative proposal that would have limited public fundingand subsidies for professional sports stadiums, ballparks and arenas.

As the Glendale Star recently reported, Senate Bill 1453 had the potential to limit “public moneyfor new or renovated arenas for the [Arizona] Coyotes, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks and all Cactus League spring training ballparks and any future improvements, or a new stadium for the National Football League Cardinals.”

The bill did not make it past the Commerce and Public Safety Committee, and numerous media outlets declared the it dead.

When the Arizona Legislature introduced identical bills in the Senate and House last month, The Arizona Republicnoted that the state could potentially “enter into a national compact”that “would not take effect until 24 other states agreed to join, which would diminish teams’ ability to threaten to move elsewhere to get better financial incentives.” So far, only four states have active bills similar to Arizona’s, the paper added. 

Opposition to the Arizona bill was strong and swift from several business and tourism groups — including the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, the Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association.

“Those groups said they oppose the bill because they see public spending on such facilities as a way to invest in bringing tourists and help improve economic growth in the state,” the Star reported, adding that University of Phoenix Stadium has hosted two Super Bowls, college football playoff games and the NCAA Final Four in the 12 years since it opened — with a majority of it financed by voter-approved tourism taxes.

Meanwhile, in Virginia last month, members of a House of Delegates panel unanimously defeated two bills“that would have barred state subsidies for a new Washington Redskins stadium in Virginia and blocked localities from spending public money on professional sports facilities,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Proposed legislation in other states is likely, and officials at sports commissions, convention and visitor bureaus, and other tourism organizations will need to stay vigilant.

In the meantime, Elvia Diaz, an editor for La Voz Arizona and a member of azcentral.com’s editorial boards, thinks she has a potential solution to the issue: “As bothered as I am with the public coercion, Big Brother has no business telling local communities how to spend their money,” she recently wrote. “In Arizona, it should be up to Glendale, Phoenix, Maricopa County or any other government entity to decide whether to pay for sports arenas or not. The fight should play out at the ballot box or at city halls. Residents — the taxpayers — are capable of deciding for themselves whether to take on any kind of debt to subsidize the venues of sports franchises.”

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