At Least Some Local Governments Still Willing to Shell Out for a Major League Stadium

It was announced today that Cobb County, Georgia has approved $396 million in public funds to build the Braves a new stadium to open in 2017 in the suburbs of Atlanta.  Turner Field, build for the 1996 Olympics and the Braves’ home since 1997, was apparently a decent stadium, but the Braves apparently could not resist a brand new stadium built largely by the taxpayers.  The biggest advantage of the new stadium may be easier access by the team’s largely suburban fan base.

The new stadium, which will open immediately after the Braves’ 20-year Turner Field lease expires, is expected to cost a total of $622 million, so the Braves will be putting up some of their own money.  However, nearly two-thirds of the cost will be funded by Cobb County.

Given that a whole series of economic studies have shown that using public money to build stadia for professional sports teams is not a good use of taxpayers’ dollars in terms of the additional tax revenue and economic activity generated by bringing in the professional sports team.  Still, there always seem to be a few localities who are so desperate to improve their national or regional image that they believe shelling out money to lure a team is a good investment.

For their part, the major sports leagues always maintain their monopoly status by limiting the amount of expansion that takes place.  So long as a few big markets remain without sports teams, it allows teams to play their current host cities against those that would very much like a major league team.

It’s definitely a good time for MLB to initiate another round of expansion to 32 teams, both in terms of the current value of franchises and the fact that the last round of expansion happened 16 years ago, a long time in terms of expansion rates since the first expansion in 1961.

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