Prospects Bleak for MLS Proposal-and That’s a Good Thing
Public funding for a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium has been a hot topic in Saint Louis over the past few months, and Show-Me Institute writers have made their position clear: side with the research. Overwhelmingly, research shows that cities do not see positive returns on stadium financing investments. A potential $120 million in subsidies from Saint Louis and the State of Missouri for a sports stadium is not a wise investment.
Saint Louis appears to have gotten the memo.
Earlier today, Alderman Christine Ingrassia said that a bill that would raise $80 million for a stadium will not be moving forward. City officials have asked the ownership group to lower the amount of money they’re asking for.
And the city’s request is completely reasonable. If stadiums do little to boost local economies, then what is the rationale for using public funds to help build them? This question took center stage last week when Gov. Eric Greitens completely ruled out state funding for stadiums. As a result, the prospect for public subsidies for SC STL does not appear to be good.
Time and again, stadiums fail to spur the economic growth that developers promise. Subsidies can help bring a beautiful new stadium to a city, and people may well attend the events held at the new venue. But much (if not most) of the economic activity taking place at the stadium isn’t actually new; instead, it reflects spending reallocation. In other words, if people purchase game tickets, they won’t eat out as often or spend money on other forms of entertainment.
With two weeks left before the Board of Aldermen’s deadline for approval, public funding for MLS is not completely off the table, but economists everywhere may rejoice to learn that people are acknowledging their research.
Avoiding wasteful spending is definitely a step in the right direction, but we should keep in mind that Ballpark Village recently received $16 million in public funding, the Blues are asking for assistance with $138 million in renovations, and many, many, many non-sports–related projects are in line for similar subsidies. The MLS discussion has engaged many citizens, but the issues with tax subsidies run far deeper than one project.