Why Not Consider the Rutgers Stadium Funding Concept For Professional Sports?

BY: MICHAEL M. SHAPIRO

Time and again our State’s residents are told that professional sports teams will pay the full cost of stadium construction and are promised that no public funding will be used in the process. Yet, nearly every time our taxpayers wind up handing over big bucks to subsidize these professional stadium projects while team owners compete to see who can raise player salaries the highest. Our government in New Jersey has consistently played along and expressed surprise when suddenly our taxpayers are left with a bill that some politician attempts to explain in some convoluted manner. While not a situation involving a professional sports team, the recent plan announced to fund the expansion of the Rutgers stadium should be studied as a model for professional sports projects.

As recently reported, Rutgers had been seeking state funding for a stadium expansion, in the neighborhood of $100M. Last week, Governor Corzine informed Rutgers that the state money would not be forthcoming, a fiscally wise decision given our State’s skyrocketing debt. Instead, Governor Corzine is teaming up with Senator Ray Lesniak and other Rutgers alums to privately raise $30M to help fund the stadium expansion.

In the world of professional sports, if team owners seek public funds to subsidize their teams, our government should do the fiscally responsible thing and refuse. Rather, either the team owners should ante up the extra money or fans and players of the particular team can raise funds to finance any costs not covered by the team owners. If the funds are not raised, the stadium will not be built or expanded. Eventually, such stadiums will be built or expanded anyway if they are necessary to increase the profit margins of professional sports teams. As a result, team owners would likely wind up paying their full costs if private fundraising does not have the desired results.

In this way, public funds are not used to subsidize professional sports and the people who benefit the most from these sports teams — the team owners, players and fans — can each do their part so that our taxpayers are assured their tax money is not used to fatten the paychecks of players and the bank accounts of team owners. It should be worth noting that now that our government has refused to fund the expansion of the Rutgers stadium with public monies even though Rutgers is a public entity, a precedent has been set that would make it highly inappropriate for our taxpayers to be asked by our government to fund any stadium expansion by a professional sports team. Let’s remember this the next time our government asks us to bail out one of these teams and hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of ShapTalk.com, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Editor of The Alternative Press, http://www.thealternativepress.com Contact Mike at mike@shaptalk.com

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