Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Selling Stadiums

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Selling Stadiums

Article excerpt

With their powerful computers and vast stores of data, economists can prove that taxpayers waste money when they support the construction of stadiums and arenas.

Studies show that major-league sports teams produce no more than about 100 full-time, year-round employees and add little economic activity to a city.

The research may be right as far as it goes, but obviously, economists have no formula for figuring out fun. Instead of turning to economists, ask the residents of Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami and Baltimore to put a price tag on the thrills they've enjoyed recently. Each of those cities hosted Major League Baseball playoff games this month in beautiful, modern stadiums. How much was it worth to the locals to see their cities' names splashed across television screens in prime time? In Cleveland, the opening of Jacobs Field in 1994 sparked a downtown renaissance that has encouraged suburbanites to pack the central city's bars and restaurants. In Baltimore, Camden Yards has become a must-see tourist attraction that bolsters downtown. Community glue Here in Atlanta, this year's opening of Turner Field has helped keep sprawling metro Atlanta from coming unglued. The Braves give suburbanites an emotional and physical bond with the city. Cobb County residents who otherwise would never venture south of Interstate 285 find themselves gazing admiringly at downtown's skyscrapers as they arrive at the ballpark. Now Atlanta will get another lift from a spectacular new arena for professional basketball and hockey. The old arena, the Omni, was ugly and isolated in a hole off Techwood Drive. The new design calls for a sparkling streetscape with open plazas, wider sidewalks, retail shops and more. The new arena could give a big boost to Centennial Olympic Park and bring life back to Marietta Street, which currently looks as if tumbleweeds will soon come blowing through. …

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