The Texas Rangers are getting a new stadium, because duh, who wants to play in an obsolete 22-year-old ballpark? The official announcement said the costs of the billion-dollar stadium will be split right down the middle. “The deal is 50-50,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams claimed. “The city would put in $500 million dollars.” Yeah, about that...
WFAA-TV has taken a dive into the actual Master Agreement, unanimously passed by the Arlington City Council last month. And that 50-50 split sure looks a lot like an 80-20 split.
Here’s how it works. The agreement, in addition to raising the city’s share of the money by extending a series of tax hikes that are currently paying for the Cowboys’ Stadium, includes an “admissions and parking tax”—a surcharge on tickets and parking. That’s normal, and is a big part of most stadium financing deals.
But in just about every other case, the city (or county/state) uses that tax to pay its share of the stadium’s cost. In this case, the Rangers get to use that tax money to pay down their own stadium debt.
“If it really is a tax and could be used by the municipality, then in essence it’s just transferring revenue from the public sector to the private sector,” said Rick Eckstein, a Villanova University professor who studies sports stadium economics.
“There’s a sleight of hand here. There’s verbal gymnastics going on,” Eckstein added. “It’s relatively unprecedented in terms of stadiums I’ve studied over the last 20 years.”
WFAA ran the numbers and calculated that the admissions and parking tax will amount to about $300 million over the expected 30-year-life of the ballpark.
So Arlington is on the hook for its pledged $500 million, plus another $300 million that it ought to be raising from tickets and parking that will instead go right into the Rangers’ owners’ pockets. Those owners will ultimately have to pay just $200 million of their own money to get their fancy-ass new ballpark.
“It is one of the worst public projects anyone could imagine,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest College in Illinois.
Spending public money on stadiums to give to billionaires is bad. Stop. Fucking. Doing it.