April 24, 2016 — Day 15: New Bucks Stadium

Bucks beat the Warriors at the Bradley Center. I was there.
Bucks beat the Warriors at the Bradley Center. I was there.

I’ve already written a few times about basketball here, but this post has surprisingly little to do with basketball. I am obviously a big Bucks fan, and I enjoy reading and commenting on Bucks related things on Twitter nearly every day. The new stadium is not really about basketball for me though, or at least it shouldn’t be. I am a stupid fan, like many other fans out there, so I desperately did not want to see the Bucks leave town because Milwaukee and Wisconsin could not build the team a new stadium. This part of me that doesn’t want the Bucks to be relocated to Seattle (the most likely destination for a relocated Bucks team) is irrational because I know deep down that I should support the Bucks leaving Wisconsin over building the team a new stadium.

Its immoral for the Bucks ownership to place a tax burden on the people of Milwaukee (and Wisconsin to a lesser extent) in order to finance a new stadium. Cities all over the country have been getting the shaft on these deals to publicly finance new stadiums for privately owned sports teams. Teams have the formula down, they threaten to leave, essentially blackmailing the local politicians, who don’t want to be known as the reason a team has left. Even if letting a team leave is sometimes the right thing to do a team’s rabid fan base may contribute to a politician losing their job.

In an ideal world the deal team owners would be faced with would be this: pay for your own stadium, and if you want public financing then the public gets an ownership stake in the team. That way the public gets some return on their investment (NFL, MLB, and NBA teams are worth massive amounts of money, and the amount increases every year). Right now the public pays for the stadiums and then gets none of the profits or value generated by the franchise they managed to keep happy. The private team owners get the upper hand every time, they essentially get free tax money. In a lot of these deals the teams don’t even pay rent, or at the very least they pay reduced rent in the new facility. Politicians like Scott Walker can trot out arguments about lost economic bonuses, lost tourism money, lost jock tax money when teams leave, but we all know they are lying through their teeth. They simply don’t want to be known as the politician who lost some beloved sports team. Its easier to give away the tax payers’ money than it is to say no to a few hedge fund billionaires who decided to buy a small market basketball team. There’s always another city waiting in the wings to snatch up a team though, so there is no way to stop the threat of a team leaving. All major cities in the US would need to simultaneously refuse to stop playing the billionaire’s games in order to put an end to the cycle.

Taxpayer money is precious, and should be spent for the good of the citizenry. That means not wasting it on stupid multi-trillion dollar overseas military expeditions, not wasting it on building poorly conceived jet fighters that don’t work as advertised (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/07/25/how-the-f-35-boondoggle-shows-that-deficit-hawkery-is-a-sham/), and not wasting it on building sports stadiums to enhance the bottom line for some men who are tremendously wealthy already. NBA and NFL owners do not need government handouts. You know who government money might do some actual good for? Poor people. All it does for Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry is maybe buy them an extra sports car. They don’t fucking need it.

So I feel bad for wanting the Bucks to stay. I know the taxpayers were fleeced, few, if any, of the economic benefits we were promised will come to fruition. Instead, we will get a very nice, very expensive downtown arena that will put more dollars in the pockets of those who need the cash least of all. The new stadium is not going to have any measurably positive impact on many of the taxpayers who’s sales tax expenditures are going to go towards paying for this thing. The poor spend a disproportionate percentage of their income on sales tax, far more than the wealthy. It would be nice if they got something in return for once.