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No DC Taxes for Baseball Coalition
Press release
October 5, 2004




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For more information about the
NO DC taxes for baseball! Campaign, go to:
www.nodctaxesforbaseball.org, call 222-0746
or write to the Campaign
c/o Friends of the Earth, 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036-2002


For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, October 5, 2004
CONTACT: Ed Lazere, DCFPI, 202-408-1080
Chris Weiss, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0746

The No DC Taxes for Baseball Coalition Sponsors Rally to Oppose Mayor Williams $440 Million Stadium Plan
DC Resources Should be Used for Badly Needed Service Improvements, Group Says

A coalition of 22 organizations and hundreds of DC residents held a rally today to oppose Mayor Williams' plan to build a $440 million baseball stadium with taxpayer funds. The No DC Taxes for Baseball Coalition does not oppose the return of baseball to the District of Columbia but believes a new stadium should be financed privately, by the new team's owners.

The rally-goers will be addressed by a group that includes existing DC Council members, victors in the recent DC Council primary election, representatives of community organizations, and other DC residents.

The Coalition opposes the mayor's plan for several reasons:

The Mayor's stadium plan puts a baseball stadium ahead of other more important needs. Taxes raised for a baseball stadium could be used to re-build schools, keep Metro costs down, support our libraries, preserve affordable housing, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The Mayor's stadium plan is a sweetheart deal that benefits wealthy Major League Baseball Owners: According to the Washington Post, the Mayor's offer to have the city build the stadium, charge only a nominal lease to the new team, and .give away 100% of the revenue from naming rights "was one of the most generous deals some baseball officials had seen." If DC pays for the stadium with public funds, the new team owners can pay top dollar for the Expos to MLB instead of financing the stadium themselves. Major League Baseball paid $120 million for the Expos just two ago, and now they want to sell it to the new DC owners for $300 million!

The Mayor's Plan Won't Meet the City's Real Economic Development Needs: Economic studies on the impact of stadiums consistently find that they do not create jobs or boost incomes, and they do not encourage development in surrounding neighborhoods. A DC Stadium would be unused 3 of every 4 days and mostly would create part-time, low-wage jobs without benefits.

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Taxes Should Not Be Raised for Baseball
When DC Has More Urgent Needs

"I have talked to very few people who think that baseball is the top priority in the District of Columbia. Education, schools, yes, top priorities. Baseball, not really.... Would I like baseball back in Washington? I'd love to have baseball back at RFK but I'm not prepared to raise taxes to build a new baseball stadium, not when practically every school but two In ward 6 are falling apart. I'm not prepared to raise to raise taxes for a baseball stadium when the woman who runs the birthing clinic at the edge of wards 5 and 6 tells me that only 10% of the women who present to her clinic ...are low enough risk for her to take in the clinic. That tells me something about the state of health in the District of Columbia. I am not ready to do taxes for baseball."

Council Member Sharon Ambrose June 12, 2003

Mayor Williams has proposed a new tax on DC businesses-$24 million per year for the next 30 years - to help pay for a stadium. Paying for the stadium with new taxes, he argues, will not detract from funding for other city services. Mayor Williams also states that the new business tax would not be adopted to fund any other purpose.

What this really means is that the Mayor is willing to raise taxes to pay for a baseball stadium but not for the other priorities of DC residents. DC residents understand that spending $440 million to build a baseball stadium would take funds that could be used to meet more critical needs. That is why most DC residents oppose public financing for a DC stadium. An August poll of likely DC voters who are members of the local affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for example, found that 70 percent do not want public funds used to build a baseball stadium.

DC residents have used the annual Citizens' Summits and other forums to highlight their priorities, and a baseball stadium has never been anywhere near the top of the list. Instead, DC residents have said they want city funds invested in:

  • Affordable Housing
  • Health Care
  • Libraries
  • Education
  • Clean-up of the Anacostia River and other environmental needs
  • Lead water pipes
  • Metro's funding shortfalls

Rather than investing time, energy, and a substantial amount of resources in a baseball stadium, District leaders should be focusing their efforts on addressing the issues that matter most to DC residents.

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DC's Stadium Offer is a Sweetheart Deal for Major League Baseball, But Not for DC Residents

"...So when they (Major League Baseball) approach cities and ask the cities to construct new baseball stadiums, their underlying theory is the more money the city puts in to building the baseball stadium, the more money they can charge the potential owners for the baseball team.... If Major League Baseball can 'shnooker' a city into paying 100 percent of the costs of building a new stadium, they can get the maximum amount of money from the potential owner to buy the team."

DC Council Member Jack Evans, June 12, 2003

Major League Baseball operates as a monopoly, which means it controls where new teams will be established. This allows the League to grant the team to the city offering the most favorable terms, which usually includes a new stadium built with public funds.

According to many observers, DC's stadium deal is very lucrative for Major League Baseball. The District would finance the stadium and charge the team owners only a modest lease. Meanwhile, team owners would collect all revenue from sale of naming rights and parking.

  • Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell wrote: "The Mayor has made the ultimate, some would say extravagant, offer-you-can't refuse bid to get the Expos... For a dilapidated franchise that some think should be contracted out of existence, the fifth-largest market in the country is offering to build a ballpark worth at least $350 million..."
  • Sports consultant Marc Ganis noted that "If it's not the most favorable [in the nation], it's certainly close to it."
  • The Washington Post described DC's stadium offer as more generous to MLB than the 10 most recent deals. Major League baseball owners were "amazed" at what Mayor Williams offered.

Major League Baseball stands to benefit handsomely from the Mayor's plan. If owners do not have to pay for a stadium, they can pay top dollar when they buy the team. The Expos are owned by the remaining 29 Major League Baseball team owners. They paid $120 million for the Expos just a few years ago and expect to sell it for $300 million or more this year! As part of the Expos' move, the League is expected to make a substantial payoff to Peter Angelos, the wealthy owner of the Orioles, who opposes a DC team. A high sales price for the Expos helps the League support that payoff.

It doesn't have to be this way. Washington is a large and wealthy area, making it the most attractive location for a new team. The large profit potential for a DC team means that its owners can afford to build a stadium. Economist Robert Baade noted that "They can afford to pay more. In a place [where] the team is going to have revenue from a whole lot of other sources, it can easily be financed privately." And stadiums in other cities have been built largely with private funds, including the SBC stadium in San Francisco (95 percent privately financed) and the new stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals (85 percent privately financed). These teams have aggressively sought corporate sponsorships and other revenues to support stadium costs.

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A Baseball Stadium Will Not Spur Good Economic Development

"In an effort to revitalize their central city and restore an aura of cultural vibrancy, many municipal governments have subsidized efforts at economic development in the city's core. Sports facilities are often part of this strategy... The impact of the sports stadium alone, however, is likely to be small. A stand-alone baseball park with 81 games a year is unlikely to induce many rational independent retailers to invest in adjacent businesses."

Andrew Zimbalist, May the Best Team Win (2003, p. 131)

Mayor Williams has proposed building a $440 million baseball stadium - mostly with public funds - along South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. He claims that a new baseball stadium would serve as a strong engine for economic development along the Anacostia Waterfront, While a stadium undoubtedly would lead to some new development near the proposed site, economic research consistently shows that stadiums do little to create new jobs or boost residents' incomes - the kind of real economic development the city needs.

  • A baseball stadium would go unused roughly three of every four days each year, making it difficult to be the sole catalyst for neighborhood development.
  • The Anacostia Waterfront area is already slated for major economic revitalization. The site for the proposed stadium site is in the area covered by the Mayor's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a major redevelopment plan expected to result in billions of dollars of public and private investment over the next 25 years.
  • A substantial amount of new development already is occurring within blocks of the stadium site, including the Navy Yard area.

Stadium proponents point to the success of the MCI center as proof that a baseball stadium will promote economic development. Yet, unlike a baseball stadium, the MCI Center is a multi-purpose facility that can be used yearround. In a recent year, the facility was used 217 days. The MCI Center was also financed largely with private funds.

There is no evidence that a baseball stadium is the best way to achieve the District's goal of bringing economic development to the southeast waterfront. Instead, the $440 million planned for a new baseball stadium could be used to create better jobs, increase incomes, and revitalize neighborhoods if devoted to investments such as housing, neighborhood commercial development, infrastructure improvements, and job training.

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Why Public Financing for a Stadium Does Not Make Sense

Sports stadiums do not promote economic development: Noted economist Andrew Zimbalist concludes that "every independent economic analysis of the impact of stadiums has found no predictable positive effect on output or employment." In layman's terms, stadiums have not been shown to create new jobs or increase incomes. The District's own estimate in 2003 - which probably is optimistic - was that a stadium would generate only 380 jobs for DC residents, and that includes jobs in the stadium as well as hotel and restaurant jobs near the stadium. At a $440 million cost, that is more than $1 million for every job created for a DC resident.

Subsidies for sports stadiums do not "pay for themselves": Economists have found that even the most successful stadiums do no generate enough economic activity and revenues to justify large public subsidies. A study of the Orioles' Camden Yards stadium found that it generates $3 million in annual economic benefits each year but has a $14 million taxpayer cost. The authors concluded that "Even at Camden Yards, public expenditures on the baseball stadium cannot be justified on the grounds of local economic development."
Taxes raised for baseball could be devoted instead to other purposes: While Mayor Williams argues that a new business tax could be enacted only for baseball, the fact is that this is a new tax that could be used to support a myriad of needs in the city. Raising taxes now for baseball would make it harder, if needed, to raise taxes in the future for other needs.

DC's strengths should allow it to get a team without heavily subsidizing a stadium: DC is one of the largest and wealthiest metro areas in the nation, certainly the largest area that currently has no team. That means a team should be able to be financially successful here even if the owners pay most of the stadium's costs. Economist Robert Baade, who has reviewed DC's offer, concludes that the owners "can afford to pay more. In a place the team is going to have revenue from a whole lot of other sources, it can easily be financed privately." (Hamilton and Kahn, 1997, p. 246)

There are a number of cities where team owners have covered most of the stadium's costs: In St. Louis, a new stadium is being built with just 15% public financing.

DC can get a better deal given how great DC's market is for baseball (big and rich). The team can succeed here financially without having the city pay for the stadium.

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No DC Taxes for Baseball Campaign Organizational Sponsors

21st Century School Fund
Campaign for the DC School Budget 
Council of Latino Agencies 
DC Action for Children 
DC Black Church Initiative 
DC Fiscal Policy Institute 
DC Library Renaissance Project 
Empower DC
Fair Budget Coalition 
Friends of the Earth 
League of Fans
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia 
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia 
Manna Inc
National Association of Minority Contractors, DC Office 
Neighbors Consejo
Parents United for the DC Public Schools 
Save DC Parks and Play Spaces 
So Others Might Eat (SOME) 
Statehood Green Party
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities 
Wider Opportunities for Women

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