Bill Would Ban Tax-Exempt Stadium Bonds Sponsor Claims Backing from Sports Fans

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Cut-rate sports facilities financing for wealthy professional teams, a Senate critic says, is drawing interference from an unlikely source: sports fans.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the top-ranked Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, says fans and other taxpayers are backing his bill banning use of tax-exempt bonds to finance stadiums and sports arenas for wealthy pro teams.

They're irked that teams, often owned by multimillionaires, receive the aid, Moynihan said to reporters last week. The show of support "sort of surprised me," signaling that the proposed stadium bonds ban stands a better chance of congressional passage this year than in 1996, when the bill was sidelined in the Senate, Moynihan said. "It turns out to be a lot of resentment by the fans about owners who say, `Do this for me or do that for me or I'm leaving town,' " taking the team to a new city that will hand the team a brand-new stadium or arena, he said. State and local governments now can sell what are called general obligation bonds to finance sports palaces, debt backed by the full faith and credit of taxpayers, although they can't sell tax-exempt bonds backed by revenues of the sports facilities or the teams that occupy them. Tax breaks for sports facilities, convention centers, airports and docks will cost the government a total $6.92 billion over fiscal years 1994 through 2000, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Moynihan's sports financing bill faces a seasoned team of opponents, including some governors, mayors, Wall Street investment houses and wealthy team owners. Thirty-three of the 114 professional sports franchises in the four major sports leagues were seeking new facilities last year, according to Fitch Investment Research. …