Lesson 7: When Does it Make Sense to Use Public Funding for Sports Stadiums?
In this one-day lesson, we will delve into the topic of public financing for sports stadiums. Stadium construction projects are major economic undertakings, which last many years and whose costs and benefits are shared by both private parties (teams and owners) and public parties (local governments and the populations they serve). In the last several decades, we have seen the construction of many new stadiums for baseball teams, football teams, and a variety of other sports teams. Supporters of public funding for these projects champion the creation of jobs, the promotion of urban renewal and redevelopment, and even civic pride. Critics insist that the costs outweigh the benefits, that the money would be better spent on other projects, and that the burden placed on taxpayers is too large (especially if the tax payers aren’t sports fans). Because this issue has emerged in so many geographic areas, it is possible to tailor the lesson to a local example.
Students should be able to do the following at the end of the lesson:
- Enumerate several costs and benefits associated with stadium construction.
- Consider common arguments in favor of and in opposition to the use of public funds for stadium construction.
- Apply the concepts of opportunity cost, taxes and revenue to the example of public stadium funding.
- The lesson begins with a brief introduction and an activity where students can locate new stadium projects on a map.
- Using a step-by-step lesson guide, students will brainstorm reasons to build or not build stadiums, as well as the possible costs associated with constructing, operating, and maintaining stadiums.
- The main activity in this lesson is a debate/discussion. Students will be assigned a constituency to represent in a town-hall meeting. They are provided with a list of guiding questions to consider as they draft their arguments for and against the use of public funds in stadium construction.
- At the end of the class, the teacher will hold a vote to determine support for public funding for athletic stadiums.
The design, development, validation and publication of these infrastructure teaching modules was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Grant #1334292, and the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. All opinions and conclusions expressed in this paper reflect the views of the author/s, and not necessarily the views of these sponsors.