The Fix Is in: How Sports Owners Have Priced Out the Middle Class, and Rip off the Public with New Stadiums
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The following is an excerpt from Brian Tuohy's book, The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR (Feral House, 2010).
Many team owners have stated that for a team to be "successful," it needs a new and more modernized facility in which to play. On the surface, the argument appears to have some merit. Looking at the list of 2006 National Football League (NFL) playoff teams, half of the 12 teams that made the playoffs--the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints, and the Seattle Seahawks--played in stadiums that were either brand new or renovated within the past seven years. But the team that won the Super Bowl in 2006, the Indianapolis Colts, played in the RCA Dome, which was built in 1983. However in baseball in 2006, the opposite seemed true as the two World Series teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers, played their 2006 seasons in new stadiums. Yet the other teams with the newest stadiums in baseball--the Milwaukee Brewers, the Seattle Mariners, the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants, and the Philadelphia Phillies--posted a combined record of 461 wins against 510 losses. The fact of the matter is, as nice as it is for the players to have improved training facilities with better medical equipment on site, the basic dimensions of their respective fields/courts don't change from stadium to stadium. And though the physical playing surface may be changed and improved, what's happening on top of it isn't.
It cannot be proved that new stadiums lead to significantly better team performance. As part of the book Baseball Between the Numbers, a study was conducted to determine the effect a new stadium had on a team's winning percentage. It found that with the teams that built new stadiums since 1991, their winning percentage went from .486 in the five years prior to the new stadium up to .520 in the five years after moving into their new digs. Those .034 percentage points equate to a difference of about five-and-a-half wins a year. Those are just raw stats, of course, and they don't factor in any player or coaching changes that may have gone along with the "new look" teams. In other words, improvement by those teams was most likely a coincidence.
Owners will also argue that new stadiums don't just benefit the players, but the fans as well. In a certain sense, this cannot be denied. The architecture that goes into many new stadiums is breathtaking. From retractable roof domes to backdrops of statuesque cityscapes, these are truly modern marvels. In these new stadiums, fans are treated to larger spaces, more amenities, and many times, a built-in, falsified history to make them feel as if the stadium has been situated in the city for years. This is wonderful, but consider for a moment the price paid for the pleasure of attending these sporting events. To pick specifically on baseball owners for a moment, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos was quoted in the book The Name of the Game as saying "Baseball's not a business through which one expects to derive great profits, or maybe any profits at all." That must be why, when the Orioles needed a new stadium in the form of what's now known as The Ballpark at Camden Yards, the public--that is, the taxpayers--had to fork out $226 million of the $235 million it cost to build the stadium. Baltimore isn't the only city this has happened to. Between 1990 and 2006, 18 new baseball stadiums opened at a total combined cost of $5.6 billion. Nearly two-thirds of that money, officially $3.6 billion, was paid by the public. Amazingly during the same approximate time frame (from 1990 to 2004), Major League Baseball (MLB) owners' total revenue went from $1.35 billion to $4.27 billion.