Another Stadium Subsidy Bites the Dust
Missouri taxpayers dodged a bullet last December when state funding for a soccer stadium in downtown Saint Louis was opposed and not pursued by then Governor-elect Greitens. But some policymakers in Jefferson City were determined to spend state taxpayers’ money—during a time of budget cuts—on a different sports arena in Saint Louis: the Scottrade Center, home of the Saint Louis Blues.
Senate Bill 469 (SB 469) would have allowed for up to $6 million a year in state funding for renovations to the hockey arena. All in all, proponents of the bill were asking state taxpayers for $70 million. Fortunately for taxpayers across Missouri, the bill didn’t make it to the governor’s desk.
SB 469 was poor policy. It would have forced all Missourians, from Maryville to Branson to Kirksville, to subsidize an arena benefiting wealthy team owners. While proponents touted a variety of economic benefits, from construction jobs to gushing tax revenues, they failed to acknowledge decades of economic consensus: stadiums and sports teams don’t grow the economy. As Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys put it in their 2008 Econ Journal Watch paper:
No matter what cities or geographical areas are examined, no matter what estimators are used, no matter what model specifications are used, and no matter what variables are used, articles published in peer reviewed economics journals contain almost no evidence that professional sports franchises and facilities have a measurable economic impact on the economy.
Does SB 469’s demise mean the Scottrade Center will fall into disrepair? Almost certainly not, as local policymakers in Saint Louis have already committed 64 million in taxpayer dollars to the facility earlier this year—without a public vote. And since the facility is abated from all property taxes, it should have cash on hand to make some of the upgrades it wants.
But just because SB 469 wasn’t codified into law this legislative session doesn’t mean a similar bill cannot or will not be introduced next year. Before state policymakers conjure up another package of subsidies, they would do well to take a sober look at the research on sports stadiums.
(For more on the economics of stadium subsidies, see here, here, here, and here.)