This week, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tapped into the angst of the many American cities on the verge of losing their professional sports teams over stadium negotiations. Owners of football teams currently in St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland are angling to make a move to Los Angeles, and they're leveraging the potential departure locally for taxpayer support of new or improved stadiums in their current municipalities. As Oliver makes clear, this strategy often leads to the comically vile scenario in which billionaires demand that cities provide hundreds of millions of dollars to appease privately owned teams that charge many of those same taxpayers hundreds of dollars for tickets.
Oliver briefly touches on the extravagances of taxpayer-funded stadiums, present and future, including the mega-fishtank installed in the Miami Marlins' stadium and the yet-to-be invented, but contractually mandated holographic replay machine the Cincinnati Bengals may use its county's money to install. AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is my pick for most cynical public spending. $325 million of the $1.3 billion stadium cost came from taxpayers' money. Arlington mayor Dr. Robert Cluck had to negotiate to receive some of the naming rights for the stadium, which now rewards the city $500,000 a year. That might sound like a lot, until you realize it would take 650 years without interest for the naming rights to reimburse the taxpayers.
But here's the real kicker, courtesy of Bloomberg:
New York Giants fans will cheer on their team against the Dallas Cowboys at tonight's National Football League opener in New Jersey. At tax time, they'll help pay for the opponents' $1.2 billion home field in Texas.
That's because the 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium was built partly using tax-free borrowing by the City of Arlington. The resulting subsidy comes out of the pockets of every American taxpayer, including Giants fans. The money doesn't go directly to the Cowboys' billionaire owner Jerry Jones. Rather, it lowers the cost of financing, giving his team the highest revenue in the NFL and making it the league's most-valuable franchise.
According to Forbes, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' net worth is $4.2 billion.