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NFL owners are getting billions of dollars to build and renovate stadiums, with no signs of slowing down.
Perhaps the most recent example is the newly proposed stadium for the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
In order to complete the proposed project, taxpayers would need to make a contribution between $500-760 million, according to CNBC.
That would add to the $4.3 billion contributed to NFL stadium projects since the year 2000.
There are many reasons for this massive transfer to NFL owners, but one of the most important is tax-free bonds.
Cities and other jurisdictions can issue these bonds to private entities, and often do to build new stadiums.
Those bonds are then, in theory, paid back by revenue from tourism taxes. Las Vegas, for example, charges massive room taxes for visitors to help pay down Allegiant Stadium.
But in practice, it gets a lot more complicated.
Las Vegas issued $750 million in bonds to help build Allegiant Stadium, which they intended to pay back using tourism taxes.
CNBC quoted Las Vegas Stadium Authority chairman Steve Hill on that subject.
“We’re collecting about 50 million additional dollars through a room tax that’s largely paid for by tourists, almost completely paid for by tourists.”
That might work in Las Vegas, but other cities without the same level of tourism can’t always recover.
NFL Stadium Bonds Cause Problems
Chicago, for example, financed $387 million in improvements to Soldier Field in 2002. The NFL and the Bears paid just $200 million.
Now after repeatedly deferring payments, Chicago owes $640 million on their bonds.
There’s also the somewhat hidden cost of increased taxes on reducing tourism. For families making vacation decisions, increased room costs might lead them to choose another destination. Or avoid traveling all together.
While that might be somewhat cancelled out by an increase in tourism due to Allegiant Stadium, it’s hard to quantify. Allegiant hosts just eight or nine home games per year, and a handful of other major events.
The stadium currently has nothing on its 2023 calendar from April 1st to September 9th, for example. Not exactly the most efficient usage.
Fans overwhelmingly want their teams to stay where they are, and undoubtedly enjoy the amenities of new or refurbished stadiums.
But they don’t receive any of the revenue those stadiums generate for NFL owners.
Owners, who are generally billionaires, have realized this, and used it to their advantage. Why finance the stadium entirely on your own, when a city is willing to provide massive hand outs?
Cities are often left in a bind, knowing owners might leave for wherever is willing to pay up.
But local taxpayers wind up being the ones helping billionaires make more profits. Even so, there’s no sign of these policies ending anytime soon.