Tuesday, January 20, 2009

49ers Stadium: Other People's Money

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's recent visit to Oakland was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:


When asked about concerns that either the 49ers or the Raiders would move to Los Angeles, Commissioner Goodell dodged the question - but he also inadvertently gave a pretty clear idea about the agenda of millionaire sports team owners in general:

"We're worried about the California market in general. If you look at our stadium situations - San Diego is trying to address (its) stadium situation, San Francisco, the Oakland Raiders ... I think collectively we have to try to address these matters on a statewide level as well as in the local communities," Goodell said.

What's "statewide" got to do with it? Don't outrageously-priced stadiums "serve" localities rather than State residents?

Californians, and not just Santa Clarans, may want to prepare themselves. As more and more communities challenge that old orthodoxy about high-priced athletic stadiums being "good for business", athletic leagues and not just the NFL are lobbying State legislators, and not City Councils, to get their heaping of public money.

My guess: Commissioner Goodell may well have taken a page from Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, Microsoft billionaire. When Seattlites made it clear that they would probably never go for local bond issues sucking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the public purse and blowing them into sports stadiums - Mr. Allen simply went to Olympia, Washington, to get what he wanted:


Although quite a few Washingtonians may never have realized it: $300 million dollars in public monies were provided by all of them for the very Qwest stadium in which few of them will ever set foot.

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata even testified before the U.S. House Domestic Policy Subcommittee on Taxpayers Financed Stadiums, Conventions Centers, and Hotels on exactly this issue. The text of his testimony, a mere two pages worth, is very well thought-out and worth a read by all of us here in Santa Clara:


If Commissioner Goodell is truly advocating an end run around local funding decisions controlled by local taxpayers, taxpayers should be deeply concerned. Expressed in starkest terms: If you don't give millionaire NFL owners like Dr. John York what they want, they'll go lobby in Sacramento and they'll take it from you anyway.

Now, it remains to be seen how even Commissioner Goodell and the NFL owners would even dare to ask for money at State level, especially with the State budget deficit now pushing some $42 billion.

But from what we've read and seen out of the stadium supporters - it sure wouldn't stop them from trying.

With best regards,
Bill Bailey