American Taxpayers Stuck Paying Billions to Build and Renovate NFL Stadiums

The American people are being forced to pay billions across the country to build stadiums for the NFL to play in, despite the fact that the league is worth an estimated $132 billion as a whole.

While it is difficult to put a firm price tag on the NFL, Sportico recently estimated that the average team is worth $4.14 billion, and the business and real estate holdings of the league as a whole are worth upwards of $132 billion.

A general view of the exterior of Cowboys Stadium before the weigh-in for the WBO welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and Joshua Clottey of Ghana on March 12, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao and Clottey will fight in Cowboys Stadium on March 13, 2010. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The league also brings in more than ten billion each year in revenue. Statistia.com found that the league earned $14.48 billion in 2018, $15.26 billion in 2019, $12.2 billion in the COVID year of 2020, and an astounding $17.19 billion in 2021.

Yet, despite wading in stacks of cash, the NFL continues to force American taxpayers to pay to build its team’s new stadiums or put billions of tax dollars into renovating older ones. And this goes on even when these cities and states rarely see a return on investment.

As CNBC reported on Thursday, taxpayers who live in or visit Tennessee, Las Vegas, Chicago, and more are stuck paying billions in taxes to satisfy the NFL teams hungry for updated, multibillion-dollar facilities.

For instance, the people of Tennessee in general, and the city of Nashville in particular, are on the hook for $500 million and $760 million, respectively, for the new stadium for the Tennessee Titans.

Exterior view of Nissan Stadium before a preseason game between the Tennessee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals at Nissan Stadium on August 27, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, the residents of Las Vegas ponied up $750 million for the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, and Chicago was stuck holding the bill for $640 million for the 2002 renovations of the Bears’ Soldier Field… the same Bears that is now making ready to leave Chicago and flee to the northwest suburbs.

Other cities and states are in the same boat as the three above as NFL teams. Other pro sports teams continue to cajole foolish politicians into agreeing to give them billions in tax dollars for new or rebuilt facilities.

Few of these deals are ever good for the taxpayers, though.

CNBC noted, “Since 2000, public funds diverted to helping build professional sports stadiums and arenas have cost taxpayers $4.3 billion. While the NFL and team owners contend that building stadiums will provide economic growth for a city, economists and urban planners think otherwise.”

That is because these stadium deals are usually arranged through the issuance of tax-exempt bonds. Most of these are “paid off” by taxing hotel rooms and businesses in and around the city in which the stadium sits. And rarely do these taxes end up flowing in like those who propose the levy claim.

Chicago is the worst-case scenario of this failure to realize.

In 2002, Chicago agreed to foot $387 million to aid in paying the $587 million costs. But because the tax revenue did not come in as expected, the city is currently on the hook for $640 million on its initial $387 million bonds after years of deferring payments.

Las Vegas aside — due to its inherent tourist base — most cities are in similar no-win situations as Chicago. And remember, it isn’t just the NFL sopping up tax dollars for free. Others, such as the NHL, MLB, and soccer leagues, are knocking at taxpayers’ doors with their hands out as they campaign for new stadium projects.

Congress has several times attempted to put an end to the practice of allowing cities and states to use tax-exempt bonds to pay for sports stadiums. But thus far, nothing serious to deter the practice has ever resulted. So in the meantime, the taxpayers are footing the bills for the ultra-rich sports leagues to continue raking in the cash free of having to pay for their stadiums and arenas.
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