Oakland’s long goodbye begins Sunday with the Raiders’ home-opener against the New York Jets.
Fans of the Silver and Black who grew up admiring the wild owner, Al “Just Win, Baby” Davis, are counting down the home games until their team departs for Las Vegas. After next season, the rabid followers with their spikes, skulls and garish face paint no longer will flock to the Black Hole. The Oakland Alameda Coliseum, a dump that rivals RFK Stadium in decrepitness, will go dark on NFL Sundays.
Raiders fans might mourn but the city of Oakland should rejoice.
Residents of Clark County (Nev.) are the folks who should be crying. They’re contributing $750 million to the Raiders new arena, a record amount for a sports facility. The funds, which amount to about $354 per resident, will be taken from an increased tax on hotel rooms that currently pays for schools and transportation, among other things.
We can be selfish as sports fans, closing our eyes to the absurdity of giving millions to fund billionaires’ playpens. We can buy into the inflated malarkey about stadiums’ economic impact, even though NFL facilities have the weakest argument with a measly 10 games per season. We can talk about the sense of community that sports teams spark in a unique way.
But you know what they can’t do in Clark County now that the Raiders are coming?
They can’t improve their schools and transportation, among other things, with the $750 million that’s going toward a $2 billion stadium.
I wonder what Houstonians, today, think about all the public money that was spent on sports facilities as the city’s aging dams fell into near-catastrophic disrepair. Texans owner Bob McNair, a multibillionaire, received a $193 million subsidy to build the NFL’s first retractable-roof stadium when the league returned to Houston in 2002.
It’s possible that no engineering feat could’ve saved Houston from the historic flooding prompted by Hurricane Harvey. But the lack of urgency was amazing. Critical repairs recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers were delayed for seven years though it cost “only’ $72 million.
Meanwhile, the Astros ($180 million) and the Rockets (180 million) bellied up to the public trough just like the Texans. I bet some super-duper dams could’ve been built with all the money that went to sports facilities.
I’m not picking on Houston, just using them as an example. The same shakedown happens in markets across the country when teams want to remodel their homes or build new ones. And no one twists arms like the NFL.
According to one estimate, $6.7 billion in public funds have been spent on 21 new NFL stadiums and three rehabs over the last two decades.
We must have SUCKER stamped on our foreheads.
Believe it or not, alternatives exist. There are examples of owners, gasp, paying for their own stadiums. MetLife in New Jersey was financed with 100 percent private money. And Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building his nearly $3 billion complex with minimal public money (an estimated $60 million).
Washington’s NFL franchise is beginning to apply the squeeze locally. Even though team owner Dan Snyder is worth a cool $2.2 billion according to Forbes, he’s busy playing Virginia, Maryland and the District against one other as he seeks a new stadium to replace FedEx Field next decade.
Like too many other elected officials, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is overly concerned about landing/keeping sports teams and their owners. Never shy about wooing Snyder, McAuliffe made another public pitch last month at the team’s Welcome Home Luncheon in Richmond.
The state is home to the Skins’ headquarters and training camp. But the games are held in Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan vows to continue that arrangement. Not to be outdone. D.C. officials this year revealed an array of possibilities for redeveloping RFK, including one that features a 65,000-seat stadium.
Count on Snyder leaning toward whichever option costs less … for him, not us taxpayers.
Proponents of public welfare for pro sports say residents aren’t affected that much because funding often comes from tourist-related taxes on hotels and rental cars.
Such creativity is a wonderful thing.
Too bad it’s never applied for, say, Metro, roadways and schools.
“There are so many everyday needs that nobody wants to take the high road and say we need to increase taxes to pay for,” Clark County (Nevada) Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani told reporters after opposing the Raiders’ deal. “Where are our priorities?
They’re clearly misplaced, like the Raiders in Vegas.
Oakland lost its team but the city can use those savings to achieve victories in more important matters.
That’s a “just win, baby” for taxpayers.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.