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Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman
            EDIFICE COMPLEXES
    You can subtitle this Another Stadium Rip-Off Rant.
         
    If you take nothing else away from this article remember: If you live in a major league city – football, basketball, hockey or baseball – and you’re a property owner you might as well be a sports fan because even if you never buy a ticket you will pay for your teams sooner … or later.

    Cooking the books, screaming poverty, threatening to move and soaking the taxpayers has become the favorite game of billionaire sports owners.  Even Jerry Jones is seeking to join in.
And we all thought he had a perfectly adequate little stadium. Okay, it was a little bald around the center, skyboxes didn’t have the highest tech, but a good arena never-the-less.

    You can even imagine him at the Arenas R Us store kicking the tires on a new stadium when the salesman walks up:

    “Whaddya think, Mr. Jones? It’s a beaut, ain’t she? Look at this – heated seats, retractable field with dual surfaces, moving sidewalks to the ladies’ rooms, Daktronics scoreboards with instant replay and we’ve got a great CYA program called (wink, wink) “The City Helps You Finance It.”

    Jerry Jones looks it over, scrunches up his surgically tightened face and says “But you will take a nice little stadium in trade, won’t you? Used only on Sundays by very sedate tea-sipping fans. Very little wear. We always kept it painted. No rust. All the skyboxes are leased.  They don’t build them like they used to.”

Edifice Complexes

    Art Modell moved the Browns, which had sellout crowds of 70,000 for fifty years in Cleveland, to Baltimore because Baltimore offered a new $ 200 Million stadium rent free, financed by taxes on all Maryland residents. Simple corporate welfare capitalism – if someone offers you a new $ 200 Mil plant – for free – you move. Never mind you had fans so loyal they dressed up like dogs and ate puppy chow. Never mind they were willing to tax their own beers and smokes to finance their own $ 200 Mil stadium. Never mind they braved the coldest winters and made barking sounds and pumped their arms like hyper Arsenio Halls. Never mind tax breaks given to many new stadiums is money lost to city schools which will eventually work it’s way down to drive away future fans needed the fill the stadiums. That’s looking too far ahead.

    All that matters to the owners is they need the newest and the best. And if they don’t get it…. Well, just look at Rome. Here, you had a state-of-the-art facility, a fancy Coliseum, but there wasn’t enough ventilation in the vomitoriums, the locker rooms were cramped (well, the Lions’ wasn’t so bad, but you should have seen the Christians’) and if your name wasn’t Nero, good luck on getting a skybox. They tried to float a heavy Toga Tax, which failed, and then threatened to move to Naples.

    And this is where the owners keep pointing. If only the fans had gone along with the Caesar’s needs all would be right. But they didn’t, people like Bud Selig, Steinbrenner and the Maloofs say, so look at it NOW.  Look at the Coliseum NOW!!

    If you move to a major league city, just remember when you’re signing your papers and you wonder what the little cloth arrows they give you are – they’re for attaching to your clothes to show the politicians and the ball team owners exactly where you keep your wallet.  
   
    
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