Baseball Stadium Stadium Bond Thoughts from Heartland Institute Research Fellow

The local expert on stadiums is McHenry’s Steve Stanek. He is a Research Fellow with the Heartland Institute.

When I read in Kevin Craver’s article in the Northwest Herald that the McHenry County Board is thinking of awarding the largest portion of the Federal stimulus bonds to the Woodstock baseball stadium folks, I thought of Stanek and asked for his opinion.

Just in case you are interested, here is the story I wrote the night the Woodstock City Council approved the proposal.

Here’s what Stanek has to say:

“I could quote dozens of economists and public policy researchers to show how bad it would be for the County Board to grant this greedy, self-serving request for $15 million of stimulus bonds for that baseball stadium. But I will instead quote the owners of a professional sports team:

“‘The financial issue is simple, and the city’s analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle’s many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave,’ the Soncis said in the court brief.” — Seattle Times, Jan. 18, 2008, regarding the NBA’s Super Sonics trying to break their stadium lease to move to another city.

“Imagine: The owners of the Seattle Super Sonics said, under oath in federal court, that Seattle would suffer no economic harm if the team were to leave the city. These same owners, when arguing for huge taxpayers subsidies for KeyArena in Seattle, said the team would bring tremendous economic benefits. But of course, when they made those claims, they were not under oath in a court of law.

“When I read about this request for stimulus bonds in the (Northwest) Herald this morning, I said to myself,

‘You’d think these people would have learned from the MCC baseball stadium fiasco.’

“But then I realized this has nothing to do with good economics or benefiting the community.

“This has to do with benefiting a handful of people with lots of money and friends in high places in this county, and with making a handful of people who cast themselves as community leaders feel good about themselves.

“I am especially disgusted with the McHenry County Community Foundation. I contacted them with information about how bad it is to use subsidies to support such facilities, and I received assurances this would be entirely privately funded. (See this article.)

“Now $15 million of stimulus bonds that have been made available by the government could go to this baseball team.

“To those few local officials who might actually care about benefiting the community, I say this would be a terrible waste of resources.

“Economic studies overwhelmingly conclude sports teams return virtually nothing to the economy and sometimes actually hurt the overall economy.

“That money could be loaned far more effectively to other businesses — businesses that have been in this county for years, paying every nickel of tax local government officials can squeeze from them.

“If they don’t believe me about the overwhelming agreement among researchers about how bad such proposals are, maybe they’ll believe this:

’With most empirical issues there’s lots of debate. Does the minimum wage cause unemployment? There’s lots of debate about that issue. Here there’s no debate.’ — Vanderbilt University economist John Siegfried regarding economists against sports subsidies, quoted in Boston Globe, March 19, 2006.”

= = = = =
All the photos were taken at the Woodstock City Council meeting when the proposal was approved 6-1. Top right, pointing at the plan for the stadium is Mark Houser, the man who refused to identify himself when he walked out of a secret meeting with the McHenry County College board. The MCC plan eventually died, of course. Below are Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee and baseball team promoter Pete Heitman. The crowd that attended the Woodstock City Council meeting is seen at the bottom.

I would note that now the Democrats have two issues upon which to beat county board Republicans about the head–the upcoming Ridgefield train station vote and the baseball stadium bond vote.

Remember the

McHenry County Monopoly
The Game of One-Party Rule

direct mail piece the Democrats put out last fall (click to enlarge) ?

I am sure the Dems will top this piece, if the county board allocates more than half of the bonds allocated for private enterprise in McHenry County to the Woodstock baseball stadium.

And think of the mailing that could be made to every small business in McHenry County:

Couldn’t get a loan last year?

The McHenry County Board could have helped you, if (you fill in the blank).

In case you have forgotten how good the “Monopoly” piece was, talk a look at

McHenry Dems Attack Republican Monopoly

Democrats Go for Republican Vulnerabilities – 1

Democrats Go for Republican Vulnerabilities – 2

Democrats Go for Republican Vulnerabilities – 3

Democrats Go for Republican Vulnerabilities – 4

County Board Plans to Buy Land to the North

Democrats Go for Republican Vulnerabilities – 5

How Is Your Town Ranked by Local Democrats?


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