Taxpayers to get stuck with another local baseball stadium?
It appears taxpayers in Washington state and the Spokane area are about to get stuck with a bill to renovate Spokane’s Avista Stadium.
Spokane County Commissioners are meeting Tuesday to likely approve a deal that would almost guarantee taxpayers cover the vast majority of the total cost of around $22 million. The money will be used to renovate the stadium, per a demand by Major League Baseball if Spokane wants to keep the Indians baseball team.
While the Indians say they’ll pay $2 million in construction costs, they want government to cover the rest. They’re asking the Washington state legislature to pitch in, as well as pinning hopes on federal funds. The city of Spokane Valley has also offered $2 million.
But no matter where they get it – local, state or federal - the money still belongs to taxpayers.
In addition to the $2 million the Indians say they’ll pitch in for construction, the club has offered to pay a rent of about $8,333 per month, or $100,000 per year. At that pace, it would take almost 200 years for taxpayer to recoup the rest of their money.
The only way taxpayers get more is via a $1 per ticket revenue sharing agreement on any tickets above an attendance total of 250,000. The Indians have never attracted that many fans. Last season, the team saw about 234,000 attendees, meaning if the revenue sharing agreement had been in place, taxpayers wouldn’t have seen a dime.
If attendance hits 250,001, taxpayers get an extra dollar.
This doesn’t seem like a very good deal. Assuming the baseball club doesn't pull in any other private funding, taxpayers get stuck with about 91% of the cost.
Spokane County Commissioners seem resigned to accepting the deal. But they don’t have to be. Baseball is not a core function of government and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Boise faced similar demands several years ago. It didn’t comply, lost its MLB affiliation, but kept baseball with the addition of a Pioneer League team.
Baseball didn’t disappear in the City of Trees. Taxpayers didn’t get stuck with a bill.