American Taxpayers Paid $10 Billion More For Sports Stadiums Than Forecast

Taxpayer-financed sports stadiums and arenas cost $10 billion more in 2010 than cities and states originally forecast for the projects, and the overall cost of land, infrastructure, and maintenance is far higher than what the sports industry typically reports, according to a new study from Harvard urban planning professor Judith Grant Long:

The costs of land, infrastructure, operations and lost property taxes add 25 percent to the taxpayer bill for the 121 sports facilities in use during 2010, increasing the average public cost by $89 million to $259 million, up from $170 million commonly reported by the sports industry and media, she writes in the book “Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities.” […]

Long’s analysis added costs such as those for land, infrastructure and lost tax revenue, while subtracting money that flows back to states or cities from revenue or rent payments.

According to Long, three of the 121 sports stadiums and arenas have costs that now exceed 100 percent of their original building price: Lucas Oil Field, home of the Indianapolis Colts, Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. In Cincinnati, public financing of Paul Brown Stadium forced the city to sell off a local hospital to finance its debt.


Baseball and football facilities, at roughly $480 million each, cost the most to build and maintain, Long found. As ThinkProgress has noted, just one of the National Football League’s 31 stadiums was built without any public funding whatsoever. When public-private partnerships are used to build such stadiums, Long found, taxpayers finance more than three-quarters of the investment, with teams and owners picking up just 22 percent of the tab.

Arenas and stadiums rarely live up to the promises teams, owners, and city politicians use to justify their construction. Cities are often left holding unsustainable amounts of debt because the economic development that is promised never shows up, and as a result, other services that provide more benefit to taxpayers are slashed to pay the bills.