Friday, November 15, 2013

Disposable Stadia

First it was disposable razors.  Then it was disposable diapers.  Then came disposable cameras.  And now we have reached the age of disposable sports stadiums and arenas. 

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves announced plans to move out of Turner Field to a soon-to-be built new stadium on the outskirts of the city in 2016.  Turner Field was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta meaning it will be all of 20-years old when the Braves vacate it.  And because a baseball stadium really isn't usable for anything but baseball, the city of Atlanta has decided it is just going to tear it down--just like it had done with the then-36-year old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium where the Braves had played before that.

The one good thing for the people of Atlanta is that little taxpayer money was put into Turner Field.  It was built for $209-million by the Atlanta Olympic Committee--which also paid for its conversion from a track facility into a baseball stadium.  But the new stadium in neighboring Cobb County will cost taxpayers there $300-million dollars.  In case you are wondering, the corporation that owns the Braves--Liberty Media--reported profits of $1.9 BILLION last year--and has a net value of $26.6 BILLION.  You would think that they might be able to afford to build whatever kind of stadium they want--wherever they want.  But as nearly every pro sports franchise has, they have demanded that taxpayers who likely will never attend a game in person cover that entire costs up front.

The Turner Field story should serve as a cautionary tale for Milwaukee officials as they hear the demands of the Milwaukee Bucks--who want a new publicly-funded arena to replace the Bradley Center--which is just 25-years old.  The Bradley Center replaced the old MECCA--which had been built 38-years previous--but is still used for UW-Milwaukee basketball games and conventions.  Despite its relative young age, the Bucks and the NBA believe the BC is "too small" and "lacks the amenities" that a modern basketball arena needs to have.  Capacity for a Bucks game is 18,717--while average attendance last year was 15,611--third worst in the NBA.  So it would appear there is still plenty of room to fit a few more people in there--should more people actually find going to a Bucks game slightly interesting.

Like Turner Field, the Bradley Center cost taxpayers very little--as Jane Bradley Pettit donated the $90-million to build it.  But the new Milwaukee arena would be funded with public money--since Bucks owner Herb Kohl has already spent $25-million to help build the arena that bears his name at the University of Wisconsin and is apparently tapped out.

So those living in and around Milwaukee should ignore all of the talk about what an "economic engine" another new arena in the downtown area will generate for the area and instead focus on how much they want to spend on what will likely be a "disposable" facility.

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