As is the case in most cities with professional franchises, the buildings that host Florida's professional sports teams have been built with the assistance of taxpayer contributions. It's played off as a symbiotic relationship (new stadium means new jobs, more revenue coming in, etc.) but most of the time feels parasitic. Well, destitute Floridians know a thing or two about that.
Under a Florida law, franchises that have received public benefits from the state are required to open their stadium doors for the homeless on non-event nights. It should shock absolutely no one to learn that not a single franchise has ever done so over the last 20 years.
State law now requires that any professional sports facility built with state money must be used as a homeless shelter except when the facility is being used for a specific event or activity.
But none of the 17 football, baseball, basketball and hockey arenas that relied on state money for construction have ever been used to house the homeless, according to Sen. Mike Bennett, who's filed a bill that could cost counties and professional sports franchises big-time.
In total, Florida taxpayers have contributed over $270 million to the various professional franchises that play in the state. Dolphin Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium) has been the biggest beneficiary of the taxpayer subsidy, having received approximately $37 million in funding. Lest the Dolphins take all the heat, the Marlins, who prior to this year have been co-tenants with the Dolphins since their inception in 1993, are also on the list.
All the professional teams, in fact, are well-represented with over $30 million in benefits received, except the Miami Heat. They only received $27 million.
Florida state Senator Mike Bennett has decried the failure to comply with the law as "yet another example of how taxpayers are supplementing the super rich owners of sports franchises while the taxpayers of Florida are receiving very little in return." Not only are they "super rich" as far you know, Mr. Senator, they are most likely far more wealthy than they have led you to believe.
Sen. Bennett's bill would require the teams and counties that have received benefits to either begin compliance, or refund the money. While the homeless in Florida shouldn't hold their breath waiting for their free shelter, on nights like tonight, they should at least consider themselves lucky for being homeless in Florida and not, say, New York.
Hope for the homeless? Football stadiums! [Palm Beach Post]
Lawmaker to stadium owners: House the homeless, or pay up [Tampa Bay Times]