Twenty-three years ago, one of us watched the controlled demolition of the Kingdome, the former home of the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks. It was very cool, as controlled demolitions go.
On the old stadium’s footprint, and just across the street, the Mariners and the Seahawks now occupy T-Mobile Park and Lumen Field, stadiums that cost about $517 million and $430 million, respectively, to build. The political fights over where that money came from — or, more accurately, how much public money would be used to build the stadiums — rocked city and state politics for years.
By today’s standards, the combined $950 million those two stadiums cost would barely build an acceptable ballpark. Even accounting for inflation — $950 million in the early 2000s would be about $1.6 billion today — the cost of new ballparks has skyrocketed. Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, paid $5.5 billion to construct SoFi Stadium, the team’s new home.
Kroenke was the rare owner who didn’t use any public funding. But other owners aren’t shy about asking state and local governments to chip in, often threatening to move their teams if they don’t get what they want.
And the amount those governments are willing to fork over is growing along with the cost of stadiums.
Tennessee and Nashville are preparing to spend more than $1.2 billion for a new home for the NFL’s Titans. Nevada and Las Vegas will have spent more than $1.1 billion on stadiums for the NFL’s Raiders and baseball’s Oakland Athletics by the time the A’s relocate. New York and Erie County are doling out $850 million to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills — owned by businessman Terry Pegula, whose net worth sits somewhere around $6.8 billion, according to Forbes.
There’s no question the team owners hold the upper hand in negotiations: There are more cities that want an NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL team than there are teams to go around.
Is spending all that money worth it to a city? In an economic sense, no — new stadiums never reach the pie-in-the-sky revenue projections the teams promise.
In a civic sense, though, it’s a different question: How much of a sense of civic pride would Buffalo lose if the Bills moved away? How much will Oakland suffer, psychologically, when the A’s leave? If voters — or the politicians they elect — decide to spend their money to maintain that civic pride, they are free to do so.
That kid who watched the Kingdome implode 23 years ago also distinctly recalls the agony of losing another Seattle institution, the Supersonics, to Oklahoma City back in 2008.
We wrote all about the latest rush of stadium spending this week. And here are eight other things you might have missed:
TECHNOLOGY: Industry groups are preparing for an onslaught of legislation aimed at regulating artificial intelligence. Legislators considered 191 AI-related bills in 31 states this year, 14 of which became law. Governors in Oklahoma, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia have signed AI-related executive orders, and more are likely in the coming months. (Pluribus News)
Don’t forget to register for our Pluribus Spotlight event on AI policy, Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT. We’ll hear from four leading lawmakers who are thinking deep thoughts about how government should be involved with AI.
LGBTQ RIGHTS: A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted preliminary injunctions against Kentucky and Tennessee laws that bar gender-affirming care for minors. The laws will be in place as lawsuits challenging their constitutionality move forward. (Nashville Post)
Wisconsin Assembly Republicans have introduced legislation to bar gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The bill outlaws surgery, puberty-blocking drugs or hormones, with exceptions for treatment administered for minors born with “verifiable genetic disorder[s] of sex development.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
ABORTION: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation Wednesday preventing state authorities from cooperating with out-of-state investigations into doctors who mail abortion pills to patients in other states. Newsom also signed a bill creating new privacy protections for online reproductive health data. (Associated Press, Los Angeles Times)
GUN POLITICS: Newsom on Tuesday signed legislation limiting where concealed weapons may be carried, requiring semi-automatic pistols to use micro stamping technology to aid in solving gun crimes and imposing an 11% excise tax on gan and ammunition sales. The excise tax is the first of its kind in any state. (Pluribus News)
Ohio House Republicans are advancing legislation that would offer $10 million a year in refundable tax credits for firearm and ammunition manufacturers who expand operations. The bill would also eliminate sales and use taxes on guns and ammunition. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
HEALTH CARE: North Carolina will formally launch Medicaid expansion on Dec. 1, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Monday. The new expansion, approved under the state budget, will extend coverage to about 600,000 low-income adults. (Associated Press)
ENVIRONMENT: Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) last week signed an executive order barring state agencies from purchasing single-use plastic bottles under 21 ounces. The order is the first of its kind in the United States; environmental groups welcomed the order as a way to cut waste. (Pluribus News)
RAIL SAFETY: The Biden administration announced Monday it has awarded $1.4 billion to 70 rail safety projects in 35 states and the District of Columbia. One project will spend $178 million to restore passenger rail service to parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. (Associated Press)
TAXES: The Massachusetts Senate gave final approval Thursday to a $1 billion tax cut package, a day after the measure won approval in the state House. The package doubles the child and dependent tax credit, doubles the maximum tax credit for seniors, and raises the threshold for the state inheritance tax. (MassLive)