Key Takeaways from AP's Perspective on the Emerging Wave of Sports Construction in the US – Investorempires.com

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A new round of stadium construction is underway for professional sports teams across the United States, and taxpayers will contribute to the multibillion dollar cost.

A wave of construction has seen teams chasing both repairs and luxury additions. Some teams have sought new public funding for the projects — with mixed support — even as debt from the last round of renovations decades ago is still being paid off.

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This year alone, the Associated Press counted about a dozen stadium projects that have been unveiled or are already underway for Major League Baseball and National Football League franchises. This does not include other projects for professional basketball, hockey and football teams.

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Here's a look at the emerging cycle of stadium projects and some of the motivations behind them.

NEW PROJECT PER MONTH

As of early 2023, work was already underway on a multi-year renovation of the stadium for the New Orleans Saints football team and the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. Then more teams joined the trend, at a rate of almost one per month.

— In January, the Cleveland Guardians announced plans for a roughly $200 million renovation of their baseball stadium over the next three years, with significant public funding support.

— In February, the Chicago Bears purchased a former suburban racetrack as a potential site for a new football stadium and surrounding development. This is happening even though the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority owes $589 million through 2032 on public bonds issued to renovate the Bears' current stadium two decades ago.

— In April, the Nashville City Council approved $760 million in local bonds and $500 million in state bonds, all to help finance a new $2.1 billion football stadium for the Tennessee Titans. As part of the deal, the Titans agreed to pay off the remaining $30 million in public debt for their current stadium, which opened in 1999.

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— In May, the Buffalo Bills began construction on a new football stadium. The AP reported in August that cost overruns pushed the projected price tag from $1.4 billion to nearly $1.7 billion. The portion paid by New York and Erie County remains unchanged at $850 million.

— In June, the Jacksonville Jaguars unveiled proposals to renovate their football stadium at a cost of up to $1.4 billion, with an additional $700 million going toward development of the surrounding area. The Jaguars are seeking a roughly 50:50 financial split with the city, similar to the model recently used to build the adjacent amphitheater and practice facility. The remaining $38 million in public debt from these projects is not scheduled to be repaid until 2047.

— In August, the Kansas City Royals unveiled two options for a new $1 billion baseball stadium as part of a $2 billion overall development that could include hundreds of millions in public funds. Royals owner John Sherman hopes to have the new stadium open by 2028. That would be three years before Jackson County, Missouri, finishes paying off the remaining $265 million in public debt from the latest renovations of the current stadiums next to each other. Royals and Kansas City Chiefs.

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— In September, the Tampa Bay Rays unveiled plans for a $1.3 billion baseball stadium that will be the centerpiece of development in St. Petersburg, Florida for $6.5 billion, which also offers housing, shopping, dining and a black history museum. The team expects the city and county to cover $730 million in costs.

— In November, Major League Baseball owners approved moving the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas. That came five months after Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo signed legislation providing $380 million in public funds to build the $1.5 billion stadium. The remaining $13.5 million in public debt on the current California A's stadium is not due until February 2025.

— In December, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed legislation providing roughly $500 million in public funds to help renovate the Milwaukee Brewers baseball stadium, which opened in 2001.

— Later in December, the Baltimore Ravens announced a $430 million, three-year, publicly funded renovation of their football stadium.

Although concrete plans are lacking, several other teams are also exploring stadium renovations, including baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles and football's Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals.

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MIXED RESULTS: A STADIUM CASE STUDY

Georgia's professional baseball and football teams moved to new stadiums in 2017.

The Atlanta Falcons have moved into a $1.6 billion downtown stadium built — with the help of hundreds of millions of public dollars _ next to their old one, which imploded after 25 years of life.

The Atlanta Braves moved from the downtown stadium originally built for the 1996 Olympics to a new suburban ballpark. Cobb County officials committed about $300 million in public funds, which covered a little less than half the cost of the new stadium.

As elsewhere, the results were mixed.

JC Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, studied the impact of moving the Braves to a stadium surrounded by housing, retail, entertainment and commercial development. He found that an increase in local sales tax revenue is consistent with greater economic activity, but not enough to cover public subsidies for the stadium.

Some residents were also upset that they didn't get to vote on the subsidy that helped fund it. The chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners subsequently lost re-election in 2016.

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TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE

Stadium projects often gain political support because of the implicit threat that sports teams might move elsewhere. Although relocations are not common, they have occurred in the past decade.

Football team St. Louis Rams left their publicly funded domed stadium for a lavish, privately funded facility in Los Angeles that opened in 2020. It shares the stadium with the Chargers football team, which left its home in San Diego.

That same year, the Las Vegas Raiders also began playing in a new stadium in a new home city, leaving the Oakland, California facility that had been renovated at taxpayer expense in the 1990s to lure the Raiders back from Los Angeles. It was the same stadium as the A's, which had recently been approved to move.

As Wisconsin lawmakers considered public assistance to renovate the Brewers' ballpark, some feared they might move as well. A Major League Baseball official testified that the league was “not trying to create free agent markets” so that “the owners could get top dollar.”

“Our preference is to keep the franchises where they are,” said MLB Chief Financial Officer Bob Starkey. “But in the end, we're not going to do anything short-sighted.

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