A page one story in the sports section of my local paper yesterday (that’s The Washington Post) describes a scenario we’ve seen far too many times: owners of ballteam threaten to move if they are not given taxpayer-financed stadium and/or various considerations unavailable to those footing the bill for said considerations.
The owner in question is Mr. Art Silber and the team is the Potomac Nationals, Class A affiliate and Virginia neighbor of the Washington Nationals. The P-Nats, as they are known around these parts, currently play their home games in a Class A dump known as Pfitzner Stadium. I have seen exactly one game at this park and one was enough. I consider myself a connoisseur of minor league stadia, and in my professional opinion this Woodbridge, Virginia, park is a joke. More than that it’s an expensive joke. They’re basically selling a high school-level product at major league prices. No wonder Minor League Baseball (capitals in original) has told Silber that the park “is not up to standards” (as quoted in the Post) and the team must find a new home by 2019.
Obviously the only other option is $35 million in new construction that the public should no doubt pay for, the only question being whether it should all be paid upfront or over decades and across generations.
Backers promote the “economic development” (quotes mine) that would surely stem from such an arrangement, magical money creation so advocated that one wonders why a 40 or 50 or 60 million dollar project might not better serve John Q. Public.
Opponents have found a public ally in Americans for Prosperity. The Post refers to the organization as one of the “special interest groups” weighing in on the matter. (Question I used to pose in my political science classes: What’s the difference between an interest group and a special interest group? A special interest group is the one you disagree with.) The Post pulls no punches, calling out those “conservative” financiers David and Charles Koch and their “informational campaign.” I do like the phrase the Post attributes to them: “corporate welfare for a private baseball team is a bad play for taxpayers.”
One economic analysis referenced in the article notes that the average minor league ballpark draws 81 percent of its funding from the public sector. Ouch. And I love baseball. Silber says that since he intends to repay Prince William County, the proposal “is essentially privately funded.”
I’ve got a ballpark I’d like to sell ya…
Prince William County voters head to the polls tomorrow for a referendum on whether to allow county residents to decide in November whether they approve bonds for the project. (Yes, you read that right: voting on whether they’re going to vote for it.) It’s unclear exactly how much money is involved and where it’s all coming from, but I’ve got a suggestion where it should come from and how much the taxpayers should put up.
Hint: one of them is the owners of the team and the other is a round number.