Billionaires and Stadiums: Part II

On September 21st, I wrote about how the Texas Rangers are scamming the residents of Tarrant County (TX) by building a new stadium in 2024 that will cost taxpayers roughly $800 million over 30 years. This will, however, have to pass a vote during a special election on November 8th.

According to WFAA-TV, the only media outlet to report that the proposed stadium’s billion-dollar price tag wasn’t going to be a 50-50 split — but rather 80-20 in favor of the Rangers — says that $800 million figure to the taxpayers is actually quite a bit low. Factoring in naming rights, personal seat licenses and parking taxes, the real cost to the city is $1.675 billion over 30 years.

Per the report:

All told, the WFAA-TV projected price tag – including construction costs, interest on loans, lost revenue and giveaways – for Arlington totals $1.675 billion over the next three decades.

“This is totally one-sided,” said Arlington attorney Jim Runzheimer. “This has to be close [to] the best deal ever cut in favor of a professional sports franchise and a government entity. It’s incomprehensible.”

The WFAA report has been disputed by Jeff Mosier of The Dallas Morning News, who points out that WFAA’s reported figure is high, while at the same time not being very convincing as to why.

When I wrote about this a month ago, I wasn’t optimistic that the people would vote within their best interests. After all, the way Americans consume information is less about accuracy than it is access. And often times the side that has more money to spend on (mis)information is the one that inevitably wins out.

To my surprise, a recent poll found that voters are evenly divided on the subject: 42% are in favor of financing a new stadium, 42% are against, and 16% were undecided. I still the believe the overwhelmingly likely scenario is they pass it and build the damn thing. But with these numbers, and only being a few weeks away from the special election, there is a chance — maybe only 15-20 percent, but still — that the taxpayers call the Rangers’ bluff and vote no.

While this isn’t much of a conspiracy, I do think it is interesting that the DMN came to bat in defense of the Rangers. They were one of the papers — and Jeff Mosier, specifically, was one of the journalists — who originally reported that the Rangers could leave Arlington for Dallas if they fail to come to an agreement on a new ballpark with the city. That, too, was a topic used as a leveraging tool in favor of the Rangers.

I’m not saying that WFAA’s projected $1.675 billion price tag is unimpeachable, and I’m not saying the DMN is acting as a mouthpiece for the Texas Rangers to help sway some voters in the “Yes” direction.

What I am saying is that’s what it seems like.

Listen, when news first broke in June that the Rangers and the city of Arlington had come to terms on a billion-dollar retractable roof stadium, the expected cost was going to be $500 million for Texas’s owners, and $500 million passed on to the taxpayers.

Then there was the revelation that, due to an “unprecedented clause,” the cost would actually be $200 million to the ownership group and $800 million to the taxpayers. Over 30 years that’s the difference of $10 million per year.

But that’s nothing if the real cost — with all the subsequent factors — is more than double the $800 million figure. I mean, from the very beginning it was basically one massive payout to the Rangers ownership group. But if WFAA is correct in their assessment — fuck it, even within a few hundred million dollars — that borders on a criminal level of betrayal to the people who pay to watch baseball games.

I do still believe that the vote will pass and the stadium will be built, but that’s more of a belief that the rich always win and the poor have to pay for it.

To that end, I don’t really care if Mosier is right and WFAA’s figure is too high. The point is that, no matter if it’s $500 million or $800 million or $1.675 billion, taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible.

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