What can we learn by looking at other NFL stadiums built in the last 10 years? There's plenty of warning signs and a clear blueprint from NFL owners: pit jurisdictions against each other to secure the most possible money toward a new stadium. An ESPN investigation found the NFL had been subsidized since 1997 to the tune of $6.7 billion dollars from taxpayers nationwide on stadium construction alone. That's quite the business model.
A review of NFL stadium financing from 1997-2015 found taxpayers foot on average 56% of any given NFL stadium deal - and often "hidden costs" increase taxpayer costs by as much as 40%! Whether that's in a new tax (it's popular to use the hotel and car rental tax) or a tax on tickets or municipal bonds, it still means taxpayers are on the hook paying for a stadium for a private business with very wealthy owners. It means that's not a tax option available to make life better for residents.
Here's a breakdown of how NFL stadiums built in the last 10 years were funded, how much parking they provide, and how many non-NFL ticketed events the space hosts that generate economic activity (hint: these stadiums, and their parking lots, sit empty most of the year).
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA (seats 71,000)
- Opened in 2017
- Cost: $1.6 Billion (was first estimated at $1 billion, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), with close to $700 million from taxpayers. And the team isn't paying rent or sharing any ad revenue from the big, fancy video boards inside the stadium - that's a raw deal for Georgians.
- Is there parking?: Oh yeah, there's a lot of surface parking.
- Non-football events also held: There are only seven events on the calendar through April 2020.
US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (seats 66,655)
- Opened in 2016
- Cost: $1.06 billion, with public taxpayer dollars covering $498 million (and ongoing debates on whether to fund military veteran homes or keep money tied up to pay off the stadium)
- Is there parking?: You bet - 20,000 parking spaces within a 20 minute walk!
- Non-football events also held: There are only eight ticketed events on the calendar through May 4, 2019.
Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (seats 68,500)
- Opened in 2014 (was put to a ballot measure, approved by 58% of county residents)
- Cost: $1.3 billion, a stadium authority shields the city by borrowing $950 million construction, but taxpayers still kicked in $124 million. The city of San Francisco sued the team for more than $1.7 million in unpaid public safety costs last year.
- Is there parking?: Not enough originally, so the team had to pay to close a nearby amusement park and use its lots on game days.
- Non-football events also held: There are only five events on the calendar through May 18, 2019.
MetLife Stadium, New York, NY (seats 82,500)
- Opened in 2010
- Cost: $1.6 billion, 100% privately-funded construction with land from the government. This is only stadium 100% privately funded.
- Is there parking?: Yup.
- Non-football events also held: There are only six events on the calendar through December 11, 2019.
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (seats 80,000)
- Opened in 2009
- Cost: $1.194 billion (originally estimated at $650 million -- whoops), with taxpayers providing the land and raising the sales tax, hotel tax, and car rental tax to kick in $444 million.
- Non-football events also held: There are 19 events scheduled through June 2019.
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (seats 67,000)
- Opened in 2008
- Cost: $719 million, with taxpayers footing a whooping $619 million or 86% of the total bill. WHAT?!
Is there parking: There's surface parking everywhere! There are 39,649 parking spaces within six blocks of the stadium.
- Non-football events also held: There are only 11 events on the calendar through December 7, 2019.
Las Vegas Stadium, Las Vegas, NV (under construction, expected 65,000)
- Expected to open in 2020
- Cost: $1.8-1.9 billion, with taxpayers on the hook for $750 million, which does not include required improvements to roads and infrastructure.
- Will there be parking? Four off-site lots providing more than 10,000 parking spots are proposed.
Look, the point is, no matter what anyone tries to tell you, there's not an economic upside to spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a stadium that is closed more than 300 days of the year and will be a traffic and quality-of-life nightmare on game days. No matter what, people love to drive to NFL games -- and they're going to park somewhere.
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