On September 18, Jody Wiser’s OpEd was published in the Portland Tribune:
For the past 50 years wealth inequality has steadily worsened in the U.S. In Oregon, the top 10% own three times as much as the other 90%. While the Oregon legislature cannot solve a national problem, they don’t need to make it worse.
During the 2023 legislative session the legislature was generous in supporting numerous essential services—housing, mental health, and childcare. And they created a new Kids’ Credit. It will mean a lot to some poor families with young children. They’ll receive $1000 for each child under six. That’s a maximum of $5000 per family. But they did something even better for some rich families: those inheriting up to $15 million in farm or forest land may pay no Oregon estate tax on that property. That’s a maximum of $2,400,000 per family.
Now, according to an Oregonian story Stadium funding shortfall puts baseball team at risk of leaving Hillsboro, the legislature is being asked to step up and hand a few wealthy investors $20 million dollars. The owners of the Hillsboro Hops want the legislature to help build a new home for the team they own. The owners are offering $82 million of the $120 million cost. The city of Hillsboro has offered $18 million. They want the rest of the state’s taxpayers to pay the rest. While the new stadium would be owned by the City and used for concerts and other events, the current stadium already accommodates over 3500. The average Hops baseball attendance was only 2400 last year.
The current stadium is already used for concerts and other events, and still has debt to be paid which counts on that revenue. Clearly, the need for a new facility is a requirement for the owners of the Hillsboro Hops, not the other uses. The current stadium is only ten years old and if the effort to bring a major league team to Portland ever succeeds the prospects that the Hops will stay in Hillsboro, using either stadium is very weak.
Of course, the desire for baseball stadium subsidies might not end there. Major League Baseball has made new stadium demands of the A-level Emeralds in Eugene as well. The Emeralds have similar annual attendance: 136,000 for the Emeralds and 151,000 for the Hops. Will the legislature hand out another $20 million to help build an upgraded stadium there?
We hope legislators from the rest of Oregon will not be willing to send money from their taxpayers to support facilities for these private businesses in either Washington or Lane County. The facilities will provide little to no economic or social benefit to the rest of the state. Certainly, Washington County is not a depressed community needing funds to keep the economy going. Intel, Analog Devices recently announced major semiconductor expansion plans that will bring billions more in investment in the County.
Historically, privately owned teams have succeeded in getting the public to pay for their facilities. They defend their appeal with claims about economic activity and employment. JC Bradbury, PhD, a sports economist debunks these claims in So Your City Wants to Build a Stadium. Anyone who is tempted to consider the Hops’ funding request should read his article. He quotes University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson who once said that “If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark.”
Car dealerships get told they must improve their facilities just as have Oregon’s A-level baseball clubs. No one would think it is the legislature’s job to help auto dealerships. Likewise, the legislature does not help build movie theaters for Regal Theaters, grocery stores for Safeway, or dealer lots for Toyota. Why should the public provide facilities for owners of sports teams?
Hopefully our current legislative leaders have realized that this is just one more way we make the rich richer.
Agree with TFO or disagree, let your legislators know. By email, or by attending one of their town halls.
Here are those links:
Oregonian, September 8, 2023
Global Sport Matters, June 15, 2022