The Bellevue Reporter published this "My Turn" article by David Plummer on February 8th, 2007:
The Bellevue City Council is considering whether to extend “bribes” to the Seattle SuperSonics to locate their proposed new sports/entertainment facility in the city, including new taxes to repay city (i.e., taxpayers’) loans to the Sonics and construction of new transportation infrastructure (roads, parking, pedesthan facilities).
Bellevue city manager Steve Sarkozy has proposed five ‘criteria’ that must be met to merit city endorsement of such action. His first criterion is that the Sonics’ facility “make sense financially.”
The Sonics’ owners have frequently stated that they need public subsidies to build their proposed, but undefined facility. However, this ignores the fact that in the early part of this century, most sports venues came to life without any government assistance.
There is near-universal agreement among competent economists and scholars that there is no net economic benefit to local, regional or state economies from the construction/operation of professional sports facilities.
Indeed, professors Coates (Department of Economics, University of Maryland) and Humphreys (Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois) concluded that “... professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy.” The professors also noted that recent data and research showed that “(t)he net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area”
Thus, Bellevue should give no consideration to providing any sort of subsidies to the owners of the Sonics franchise, whether in the form of tax revenues or construction of any infrastructure.
Sarkozy also proposed that the Sonics’ facility should “serve the broad interests of the community.” However, the city (of Bellevue) has no procedures/mechanisms in place to determine what such interests might be.
Thus, this ‘criterion’ should be ignored unless it was amended to include provision for a public vote on whether to provide subsidies to the franchise owners and whether the public favors location of the facility in the city.