The use of taxpayer money to buy rich people new stadiums is as common as it is shameless. But one politician, currently trying to avoid throwing in tens of millions of dollars for a soccer stadium, has a brilliant idea: If a city or county pays for a large chunk of a team's home, they ought to own a slice of that team.
Orlando is a prohibitive favorite to land one of the new MLS teams. But Orlando City SC, playing in the USL Pro, will need a larger, soccer-specific stadium to make it to the big leagues. Last week, local politicians announced the tentative framework of a deal that would build an $85 million stadium in Orlando—with the team paying just $30 million. The rest would come from the city and county.
Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke isn't happy with giving the club money for nothing (besides the debatable economic value of hosting a pro sports franchise). So here's his plan. If Orlando City needs the county's money so badly, why not give the county part-ownership of the team in exchange for its contribution?
"I do not want another example of the county expending millions of dollars watching from the sidelines, as our investment climbs in value without the prospects of our taxpayers benefiting," Clarke wrote in a memo he sent out late Monday.
Clarke said he wants the county's contribution to secure a share of the soccer team's ownership, with any yearly profits or money made from a future sale to go to county athletic programs and facilities.
By raising taxes, or issuing bonds to pay for a stadium, a city or county assumes a portion of the risk without any hope of a payout. But under Clarke's plan it would be, as Neil DeMause says, "an investment, not a gift." It's just so...logical. And it'll never happen. Teams almost invariably get their stadiums without making concessions. Just look at the fawning from Orlando-area politicians when the preliminary deal was announced last week—you've never seen a group of people happier about agreeing to spend $55 million in public funds.
It could be worse for Orlando. Washington D.C. appears committed to spending $150 million to build a new arena for the MLS team it already has.