San Diego residents resoundingly voted down a measure to use public funds for a new Chargers football stadium. The momentum against using public money for sports arenas, stadiums, and ballparks has almost reached a breaking point. People were congratulating San Diego voters on their decision.
The city of San Diego made its choice — which may lead to the Chargers leaving San Diego — but this isn’t the end to public dollars for MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL stadiums.
In fact the people of Arlington, Texas just voted for public dollars to be used for funding the construction of a new baseball park for the Rangers. That means $500 million of public tax-payer dollars will be used in helping to build a new home for the Rangers that will have all the new amenities needed and a retractable roof. The bill that passed was only slightly similar to the one voted down by San Diego residents. It is in fact an extension of a tax on hotels, rental cars and sales. It is not a new tax, but it’s still public dollars flowing to a private entity.
Both cities made a specific decision. The Rangers were probably never going to move. MLB needs a team in the giant Dallas market. Baseball seems more local in it’s scope and ties to the community. The last time a MLB team relocated was 2005 when the Expos left Montreal. Prior to that it was the Rangers moving to Texas in 1972. So Arlington residents could have lost the team to another Dallas suburb but it’s not like the team was moving completely out of the market. Residents still voted for public funding anyway.
Contrast that with San Diego. The Chargers could move to Los Angeles if they really wanted to. That doesn’t mean they will, but the option is there. It’s more realistic than the Rangers leaving Dallas. The NFL has had four teams relocate since 1995. That’s a lot more than MLB. Residents had a chance to stop the team from moving. They chose not to.
There are reasons outside of dollars and cents that cities want professional teams. They are sources of civic pride, a rallying point for members of the community, and carry a certain prestige for the city. As long as there are more major cities than professional teams, there will always be debate about public dollars going to building stadiums.