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DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Friends of the Earth, National Taxpayers Union, and Taxpayers for Common Sense Action
Letter by ninety economists to mayor and city council opposing economic rationale for baseball stadium
October 21, 2004




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Press release Letter to mayor and council

D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute • Friends of the Earth
National Taxpayers Union
Taxpayers for Common Sense Action

For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 21, 2004
For Further Information, Contact:
Pete Sepp or Annie Patnaude/NTU, (703) 683-5700
Ed Lazere/DCFPI, (202) 408-1080
Chris Weiss/FOE, (202) 222-0746
Steve Ellis/TCSA, (202) 546-8500

"BALK!" - Statement from 90 Economists Says Baseball Stadium Subsidy Is a Strike-Out, Not a Home Run, for DC

(Washington, DC) - The huge public subsidy behind the District's baseball stadium scheme "will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city" - that's the assessment of 90 prominent economists from across the nation who signed a joint statement presented today at a downtown event hosted by several organizations opposed to the $440 million plan.

"Most studies find that new sports stadiums do not increase employment or incomes and sometimes have a modest negative effect on local economies," the signatories noted. Although the new facility "may shift some entertainment spending from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to the District," this outcome is not likely to justify the outlay of tax dollars. Nor is a stadium likely to lead to an economic renaissance in Anacostia, because few of the financial windfalls accrue to neighboring businesses.

Such persistent doubts over the viability of the DC stadium deal were seconded at today's event on the steps of the Wilson Building, where several groups from across the ideological spectrum urged officials to reconsider the project before public funds begin to flow in earnest.

"District leaders and taxpayers literally cannot afford to ignore this major league warning from economic experts," said National Taxpayers Union (NTU) Vice President for Communications Pete Sepp. "No matter how elegant the Mayor's p-r pitch is, the stadium plan is a fiscal foul ball that would hit DC with a huge headache. New tax burdens on city businesses will ultimately fall on city residents, in the form of higher prices, lower wages, and lost jobs."

"The sobering words from these economists tell us that the Mayor's plan to use a baseball stadium to revitalize the Anacostia waterfront is mere wishful thinking," said Ed Lazere, Director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI). "The District should not spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a stadium based on such unrealistic claims."

"Public financing of a baseball stadium gets us farther away, not closer, to the realization of a revitalized and unpolluted Anacostia waterfront," said Chris Weiss, an advocate with Friends of the Earth (FOE). "It's simply ridiculous that we spend money we don't have on a baseball stadium that a vast body of research suggests will not generate notable economic benefits for District residents."

"This stadium is a World Series windfall for baseball," said Steve Ellis, Vice President of Programs for Taxpayers for Common Sense Action (TCSA), a national, non-partisan budget watchdog group. "However, the benefits of the stadium proposal are nothing more than economic field dreams for the District. We may build it but the dollars will never come."

Note: The economists 'statement, along with a list of signatories, is available upon request or online at www.ntu.org. [It is also below.] For information on the organizations cited above, visit: www.dcfpi.org (D. C. Fiscal Policy Institute), www.foe.org (Friends of the Earth), www.taxpayer.net (Taxpayers for Common Sense Action), and www.ntu.org (National Taxpayers Union).

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October 21, 2004

An Open Letter to Mayor Anthony Williams and the DC City Council from 90 Economists* on the Likely Impact of a Taxpayer-Financed Baseball Stadium in the District of Columbia

Dear Mayor Williams and DC Council Members:

A vast body of economic research on the impact of baseball stadiums suggests that the proposed $440 million baseball stadium in the District of Columbia will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city. Most studies find that new sports stadiums do not increase employment or incomes and sometimes have a modest negative effect on local economies. The reason appears to be that sports stadiums do not increase overall entertainment spending but merely shift it from other entertainment venues to the stadium.

Research also suggests that a baseball stadium alone will not revitalize the Anacostia waterfront. Because sports stadiums are not used most of the year, they do not stimulate much development outside the stadium. Most modern stadiums include restaurant and other entertainment offerings, limiting the money that goes to neighboring businesses.

A new stadium cannot be expected to generate a net increase in economic activity in the Washington metropolitan area, but it may shift some entertainment spending from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs into the District. Nevertheless, the economic benefits to the District are not likely to outweigh the large stadium subsidy proposed by the District. At least 80 percent of the costs of the $440 million stadium are expected to be supported with public funds.

In short, it is dubious to justify the use of public funds to subsidize construction of a DC baseball stadium on economic development grounds.


Henry J. Aaron
Brookings Institution 

Geoffrey Andron
Austin Community College

Robert A. Baade
Lake Forest College

Charles W. Baird
California State University - Hayward

Doug Bandow
Cato Institute

Andy H. Barnett
Auburn University

John H. Beck 
Gonzaga University

M. Douglas Berg
Sam Houston State University

David J. Berri
California State University - Bakersfield

John Berthoud
George Washington University

Elizabeth C. Bogan 
Princeton University

Samuel Bostaph 
University of Dallas

Scott Bradford
Brigham Young University

John B. Bryant 
Rice University

Dennis Coates
University of Maryland - Baltimore County

John P. Cochran
Metropolitan State College of Denver

Christian Crowley
George Washington University

Otto A. Davis
Carnegie Mellon University

Gregory J. Delemeester 
Marietta College

Craig Depken
University of Texas - Arlington

John Dobra 
University of Nevada

Robert M. Dunn Jr.
George Washington University

Frank Falero
California State University

Arthur Fleisher III 
Metropolitan State College

Micah Frankel
California State University - Hayward

Kenneth R. French
Dartmouth University - Tuck School of Business

Dennis E. Gale 
Rutgers University

John M. Gandar
University of North Carolina - Charlotte

David Garthoff
The University of Akron

David E.R. Gay 
University of Arkansas

Otis Gilley
Louisiana Tech University

David Gold
New School University

Peter Gordon
University of Southern California

Dennis Halcoussis
California State University - Northridge

Robert Hahn 
AEI-Brookings Joint Center

David R. Henderson 
Hoover Institute

Pat Hendershott
University of Aberdeen - Scotland

Brad Humphreys
University of Illinois - Champaign-Urbana

F. Jerry Ingram
The University of Lousiana-Monroe

Bruce Johnson 
Centre College

David L. Kaserman 
Auburn University

Raymond J. Keating
Small Business Survival Committee

David Laband 
Auburn University

Thomas M. Lenard
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Stan Liebowitz
University of Texas - Dallas

R. Ashley Lyman 
University of Idaho

Doug MacKenzie
Ramapo College of New Jersey

Michael L. Marlow
California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo

Victor Matheson
College of the Holy Cross

Fred S. McChesney 
Northwestern University

Carlisle Moody
College of William & Mary

Richard F. Muth 
Emory University

Roger Noll 
Stanford University

James B. O'Neill 
University of Delaware

Jeffrey Owen
Indiana State University

Allen Parkman
University of New Mexico

William S. Peirce
Case Western Reserve University

Philip Porter
University of South Florida

Barry W. Poulson 
University of Colorado

Richard W. Rahn 
Discovery Institute

W. Robert Reed 
University of Oklahoma

Jay R. Ritter 
University of Florida

Paul H. Rubin 
Emory University

Raymond Sauer 
Clemson University

Martin Schmidt
College of William & Mary

Michael A. Schuyler
Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation

Carlos Seiglie 
Rutgers University

Stephen Shmanske
California State University - Hayward

Rich Shields
Keller Graduate School of Management

William F. Shughart II 
University of Mississippi

John J. Siegfried 
Vanderbilt University

Neil T. Skaggs
Illinois State University

James F. Smith
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Mark Steckbeck 
Hillsdale College

E. Frank Stephenson 
Berry College

Courtenay C. Stone 
Ball State University

Alexander Tabarrok 
George Mason University

John Tatom 
DePaul University

Henry Townsend 

Leo Troy
Rutgers University - Newark

Richard K. Vedder 
Ohio University

Scott Wallsten
American Enterprise Institute

John T. Wenders 
University of Idaho

Robert Whaples
Wake Forest University

Walter E. Williams 
George Mason University

Dennise P. Wilson
University of Texas - Arlington

Gary Wolfram 
Hillsdale College

Kate Zhou 
University of Hawaii

Andrew Zimbalist 
Smith College

Benjamin Zycher
Pacific Research Institute

*Institutions are listed for informational purposes only.

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