Major League Losers; The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It

Overview

A welfare system exists in this country that transfers hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to individuals who hardly require government assistance. State and local officials, mesmerized by vague promises and starry-eyed visions of the future, cave in to ever escalating demands from the system’s beneficiaries, without ever finding out whether the public is served by such policies. It’s a scandal, really, and reform is long overdue if we are to rein in the abuses perpetrated by … America’s professional ...

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Overview

A welfare system exists in this country that transfers hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to individuals who hardly require government assistance. State and local officials, mesmerized by vague promises and starry-eyed visions of the future, cave in to ever escalating demands from the system’s beneficiaries, without ever finding out whether the public is served by such policies. It’s a scandal, really, and reform is long overdue if we are to rein in the abuses perpetrated by … America’s professional sports franchises.Major League Losers is a clarion call that exposes the system by which American cities and states shell out scarce tax dollars to subsidize the expenses of wealthy team owners and their extraordinarily well-paid employees. New stadiums and arenas are built at public expense, but municipalities are regularly shut out from sharing in the profits they generate. Sweetheart deals, negotiated under the threat of a team leaving town, result in many owners receiving land, investment opportunities, luxury suites, prime office space, and practice facilities—all financed by the taxpayers.Mark S. Rosentraub, a leading analyst of the economic impacts of sports on urban areas, has studied the truth behind the claims routinely made by mayors, team owners, and the media, and he has discovered that major league sports have no more than a minuscule impact on the economy of a city or region. They produce few jobs, little tax revenue, and a negligible positive impact even on their own immediate neighborhood. In these times of tight budgets, Rosentraub shows that the current system wastes a colossal amount of public money that Americans cannot afford, and his pointed critique provides government officials and taxpayers with a clearer understanding of how cities can, and should, negotiate with sports franchises to protect the true public good.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rosentraub, associate dean and director of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University, makes a persuasive case that cities and states should reconsider before offering financial incentives to attract professional sports teams or to keep a team in its present location. He notes that while sports play a major role in American society, a professional sports franchise contributes relatively little to a city's economy. Moreover, Rosentraub shoots down the theory often used by public officials to justify building new stadiums-that a professional sports team can serve as a catalyst to revive a section of a city-by arguing that the economic impact of a new stadium is negligible. He presents a number of case studies to support his arguments, including the creation of sports complexes in Indianapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis. Rosentraub argues that taxpayers should not be asked to finance new sports arenas and that more equitable public/private financing arrangements be used. Although Rosentraub occasionally gets bogged down in academic jargon, he makes a strong case that the practice of providing welfare for rich owners and players should be stopped. One of his particularly noteworthy suggestions is that Congress break up the professional league "cartels," which would lead to an increase in the number of teams and thereby diminish owners' biggest threat-that they will move a team to another location. Feb.
Library Journal
Rosentraub (Urban Policy Problems, Greenwood, 1986) has written a detailed, sober study of the complex relationship between pro sports owners and public officials, who have become significantly intertwined as more public monies are spent to attract and keep sports franchises. The elaborate economics of this "welfare for sports owners" are analyzed thoroughly, with the result being Rosentraub's reasoned suggestion that there is insufficient return on the investment of the hundreds of millions that owners usually want. He also explains the powerful interest communities have in the professional sports franchise. Look for the author to be in heavy demand on the talk-show circuit and in open debate with owners. His solid, complete examination will stand as the definitive study of a controversial subject. It should be required reading for business majors and especially for mayors and other public officials. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Dale F. Farris, Groves, Tex.
Kirkus Reviews
This dense and sometimes difficult financial analysis leads to easily understood and sensible conclusions about the business of sports.

Rosentraub (of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana Univ.) is an avid sports fan who concedes the substantial intangible benefits a city can reap from a successful sports franchise. The goal of this exhaustive study, however, is to demonstrate that, economically, cities that spend millions to attract these franchises come out barely even or, more often, wind up deep in the hole. Rosentraub studies the finances of stadium projects in such cities as Indianapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Toronto, and Montreal. Indianapolis, for instance, tried to revitalize its sleepy image and its deteriorating downtown through a multipronged strategy of attracting both professional and amateur athletic activity. But in the end it merely demonstrated Rosentraub's claim that sports is too small a part of any city's economy to generate much growth in terms of jobs and income, nor do profits spill over into other businesses in the community. Team owners, he argues, blackmail cities into huge "welfare" subsidies that "transfer . . . wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper class." They are able to do so because "sports cartels" insure that "the number of cities that want teams exceeds the supply," thus setting off bidding wars among locales. Rosentraub's solution: End the cartels, get the government out of sports, and let the free market rule. Acknowledging the substantial obstacles to such obvious but radical remedies, he argues that taxpayers at the least must demand to know who pays and who profits, and then decide just how much the intangible benefits of sports are worth.

Every New Yorker, especially Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, must read this book before agreeing to a billion-dollar-plus stadium for the Yankees. Ditto for other cities contemplating the construction of a new stadium.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465071432
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 6/23/1999
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 1,348,396
  • Lexile: 1370L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark S. Rosentraub is professor and associate dean in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University at Indianapolis, and is director of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He lives in Indianapolis.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 Why Are Sports So Important to So Many People? 33
3 The Courts, Congress, and Development of the Sports Welfare System 73
4 What Do Teams Really Mean for Cities? 129
5 Indianapolis's and Cleveland's Efforts to Change Their Images and Downtown Areas 171
6 Cities, Sports, and Imagery 215
7 Fights within the Family: Suburbs and Center Cities in a Battle for the Intangible Benefits from Sports 257
8 Can Small Regions Afford Professional Sports? Who Is Responsible for the Viability of Small-Market Teams? 289
9 Ending the Great Sports Welfare System 317
References 339
Index 353
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