Thursday, January 29, 2015

Trib Says, "Economists Be Damned! Don't Tax Sports Because People Like Them!"

Not to be lost in their crazy headline this morning, the Tampa Tribune also added an editorial that misses the mark on the very incentives I've been reporting on for the last week.

The editorial board's basic logic: Florida should throw more millions at professional teams because lots of fans attend games and Super Bowls are nice.

So far this week, I've reported how Florida's new stadium subsidy "competition" was no competition; much of the "new" tax revenue three stadium renovation projects will "create" are simply from higher ticket prices and inflation; and the politicians behind the controversial law got big-time campaign checks from the organizations that benefited.

Clearly the Trib editorial board wasn't paying attention, because it uses flawed logic to support subsidies that state economists just panned.  In fact, the editorial suggests lawmakers should ignore state economists because “millions of people across the country were introduced to the Sunshine State through the annual baseball ritual in cities from Miami to Tampa, and from St. Petersburg to Vero Beach."

First of all, the editorial board is confusing spring training stadium subsidies with those for year-round facilities like the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium and the Jaguars’ EverBank Field.   Those stadiums don't draw many out-of-state visitors and they're already collecting $2 million a year each from the state.  They're now asking for more ($90 million and $30 million, respectively, over the next 30 years).

Furthermore, the state economists that the Trib questions actually supported spring training subsidies, indicating they were the only sports incentives that had a positive return on investment for Florida taxpayers.

Second of all, the editorial board probably didn't even read the sports subsidy bill its endorsing for a second time.  If it had, the board would have found the same thing Senate staffers warned last year: a clause in the bill could cost Floridians some of the benefit from the very same spring training economic boom the Trib heralded.

Third of all, the editorial opines, "the state settled on an equitable process for awarding money to professional sports franchises."  How did the paper miss the fact that the "equitable process" was a joke this year??

Fourth of all, the editorial fails to make a convincing case why the state should go ahead and give the sought-after sales tax rebates to the four organizations that have already started their construction projects anyway.  We all know sports teams/leagues get wealthier with every new TV deal and "because they draw tourists" is not enough reason to dole out state tax dollars.  In fact, if they were, we'd be paying a helluva lot more to the good folks at Disney and Busch Gardens.

Finally, the Trib's last argument for awarding pro teams tax dollars is "intangibles," like " Canadian audiences" during Lightning games and other "major media markets" during Rays games.

For what it's worth, the nation's top tourist destination is Orlando - home to just one pro team, and lots of other tourist attractions that routinely expand and renovate without handouts from the state.


  1. It is interesting to note that the editorial poses the question "Consider whether Tampa is better off for hosting several Super Bowls, which wouldn’t have happened without the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. " but does not answer it. So readers are now left to forever wonder did the Super Bowls played in Tampa do Tampa Bay any good or not. As if I don't have enough other stressful problems on my plate.

  2. Local newspaper editors are not economists, scientists, lawyers, or doctors. They are simply people who offer a layperson's opinion. I would not give any more weight to their views on stadiums than I would their views on orthopedic surgery. They simply are not experts. Just because they have a microphone, it doesn't mean any of us should value the vomit that comes out of it. In a free marketplace of ideas, I value the people who have the training to know what they are talking about. "We need to give them subsidies, because Super Bowls." "Also, baseball is fun." What a crock.

  3. Local newspapers get advertising dollars from the professional sports teams - of course they are not going to be objective.