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Guest Post by Maria Jeffrey

The kickoff of the NFL season officially launches another race to the Super Bowl … and unprecedented revenues for the league. But despite sky-high revenues, the NFL relies on billions of dollars in taxpayer money to build and renovate NFL stadiums all over the country.

This year, the NFL is projected to bring in $13 billion in revenue, and the league is well on its way to hitting the $25 billion revenue goal for 2027 that Commissioner Roger Goodell has set.

Meanwhile, Goodell’s salary has witnessed a comparable meteoric rise. He took home $44 million last year, and a total of $74 million from 2012 to 2014. To put that into perspective, that’s almost as much as the taxpayers kicked in to help build the Washington Redskins’ FedExField in 1997.

While taxpayers are keeping NFL stadiums afloat, it’s becoming prohibitively expensive for people to attend games.

In fact, nearly $7 billion of taxpayer money has been used in the past 20 years to help build and/or renovate 29 of the 31 NFL stadiums.

And that’s the rub: The NFL takes in billions of dollars a year, and the NFL commissioner makes an unbelievable amount of money, yet taxpayers all over the country have been on the hook for billions to build NFL stadiums. Why?

Conventional wisdom says public projects — like massive sporting venues — bring economic growth to an area. A new stadium means new jobs, new restaurants, and increased tourism…right? But real life doesn’t pan out that way for many cities that build NFL stadiums. In fact, approximately just 10 percent of attendees at pro sporting events are out-of-towners. A 2008 study looking at nearly 20 years of research on the subject found that professional sports teams have little to no impact on their respective economies. Further, economists are nearly unanimous in thought that subsidies to professional sports franchises should be eliminated outright.

While taxpayers are keeping NFL stadiums afloat, it’s becoming prohibitively expensive for people to attend games. The Atlantic reports:

“In 2014, the average NFL ticket cost $85, twice the inflation-adjusted cost of a generation ago. Parking at $25, beer at $12, and soft drinks at $9 are common, with nearly all concession revenue kept by NFL owners. Team Marketing Report, a Chicago consultancy, calculated that in 2014 a family of four spent $635 to attend a Dallas Cowboys home game sitting in regular seats, not in a suite or on a premium concourse; $625 for the same family to attend a Patriots home game; $600 for a Washington home game. That typical people are taxed to fund NFL facilities, yet only the expense-account set can afford to enter, ought to be a source of populist uproar.”

So what can be done?

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