Press Club

Peter’s Take: No Virginia Tax Dollars for New Redskins Stadium

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

On Jan. 9, Virginia House of Delegates member Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) offered legislation (HB 1886) that would, if enacted, establish:

“an interstate compact among the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia (the party states) that prohibits the party states from providing incentives for a Washington area professional football team franchise facility, including tax incentives, state or local appropriations, and loans.”

In support of his bill, Webert explained,“think tanks on the left and right show the subsidies that go to professional stadiums, there really is not the return on investment that everybody says there is.”

State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) disputed Webert, holding out hope that Virginia would at least be willing to “offer to build a Metro station or highway ramp to serve a stadium, or provide land for it at a nominal rent.”

Football stadiums do not spur significant economic growth

The evidence is overwhelming that subsidizing the construction of a new Redskins football stadium will never be in the best interests of Virginia taxpayers:

“Roger Noll, an economist who studies sports-stadium subsidies at Stanford University, says he has never witnessed the construction of a football stadium that has had a significant positive impact on the local economy.”    

Direct costs outweigh the benefits

Fifty-seven percent of a panel of U.S economic experts agreed that the costs to taxpayers are likely to outweigh the benefits, while only 2 percent disagreed–though several panelists noted that some contributions of local sports teams are difficult to quantify.

Subsidizing stadiums is a game that taxpayers lose: “Governments should never finance a stadium with public money as it is simply a subsidy to rich team owners and a few businesses that stand to benefit from the events held there.”

Opportunity costs further tilt the balance against taxpayer funding

The costs of a new Virginia stadium for the Redskins are even higher when you factor in the opportunity costs. Virginia tax dollars spent on such a stadium would be tax dollars that could have been spent to:

  • increase Virginia’s state share of the new dedicated funding stream for Metro
  • increase Virginia’s state share of public education funding
  • redress some of the many remaining critical deficiencies in Virginia’s mental health facilities
  • help bring high-speed broadband to rural areas of Virginia that currently lack it

These are only four of hundreds of more deserving needs than a Redskins stadium.

Dan Snyder doesn’t need the money

Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder is a billionaire who doesn’t need a public hand out. Any Virginia tax dollars for a new Redskins stadium will go directly into Dan Snyder’s pockets.

A 2003 study by a member of the University of Texas economics department documented that a new stadium increases:

  • team profits by an average of $13 million annually
  • payroll salaries by $14 million annually
  • team book value by $90 million

Sixteen years later, all these numbers are likely to be much higher.

Conclusion

Regardless of what DC or Maryland decide to do, nothing related to any new Redskins stadium should be subsidized by Virginia taxpayers. Dan Snyder should arrange 100 percent private financing. Under these conditions, Snyder could build his stadium in Virginia if he could find a welcoming local government.

San Francisco 49’ers cornerback Richard Sherman got it right: “I’d stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums…and maybe make the billionaires who actually benefit from the stadiums pay for them.”

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