There is almost nothing that gets people more inflamed than the sweetheart deals pro sports owners (typically multi-millionaires and billionaires) get to construct new stadiums and renovate old ones. I totally get the populist angst, why should the public support these dudes? But I am confused by the belligerence and outrage caused by the insinuation that sports owners are somehow evil wizards that have been able to enchant us and defraud us.
To me there are two glaringly obvious problems with this hysteria. The first is kind of obvious: these are public performance places no different than the theaters and auditoriums that cities typically subsidize, why?, because people enjoy them and ticket sales alone are not enough to finance their existence. Even though I have yet not gone to a performance at Portland Center Stage, I am glad the Armory theater exists and plan on seeing a performance there in the future so I am willing to help subsidize it.
But operas, theater companies, orchestras and ballets are typically non-profits so that makes it all OK, plus they are 'art' and worth subsidizing go the typical arguments. I think this is a bit arrogant and it brings me to the second, larger, point: the fact that so much public money has gone into spots venues is not a demonstration of evil wizardry as much as it is a reveled preference. People like live sports as entertainment, they value sports teams in their communities and they are willing to help support their existence. What is interesting to this economic naturalist is that it appears that even if you only watch them on TV people value the existence of team in their communities - they want to support 'our' team.
Arguing otherwise is silly, in my opinion. The market has spoken. We readily accept this when we are talking about the Pontiac Aztek (or Pontiac for that matter) but refuse to accept it because among the beneficiaries are very rich people. So we have to construct narratives that speak to some dark magic that somehow has made us all irrational. You may not like the fact that these things matter to people and you may wish, as I do, that there would be the same amount of emotional appeal for education, for example, but it is what it is.
I am not in any way endorsing this, by the way, just making the obvious point that the fact that so much public money has gone into these project seems pretty good evidence that they are valuable to their communities.