Stadiums Over Schools Not Good for Sacramento

I’ve got an opinion. It’s a very, very unpopular one, particularly with many of the other DJ’s at KSSU. My opinion is this: I strongly dislike major league professional sports and the amount of time, energy, and money that are devoted to them. It’s not that I don’t like sports in general; I played sports all throughout childhood and have good memories of the teams I played for. But major league sports, where athletes are paid millions of dollars for playing a game, is something I just don’t get. The NBA? I’ve never really been into basketball, unless it was the Space Jam movie when I was a kid, and it wasn’t because of the game, it was because of Bugs Bunny and Bill M.F. Murray. MLB? I think that next to golf, baseball  is one of the most boring sports events to ever be televised. The NFL? I don’t like football, the football theme song (it’s like Pavlov’s drooling dogs, but instead of dogs and food and bells, it’s humans and beer and that theme song), and I especially don’t like that stupid dancing robot (Why is it dancing? Why does it run in place? Is it part-terminator? What does a robot-terminator thing have to do with football? I DON”T UNDERSTAND!). Many people enjoy major league sports because it brings people together. Seeing sports events live and going to sports bars or friends houses to watch a game where everyone is rooting for the same team gives people a sense of togetherness and camaraderie.  I get that, I really do. I just don’t get how or why people can care so much about what happens in sports, but care nothing about things like politics that actually affect most people’s lives. And most of all, I don’t understand why so much local tax money goes into paying for sports arenas, especially in times of economic recession. This last point is exemplified by the recent approval of the new Kings arena in downtown Sacramento.

Someone once said that professional sports teams are nothing but a bunch of millionaires, managed by billionaires, in multimillion dollar arenas paid for with local funds in cities that are too poor to keep schools open. According to a study done by Robert Baade and Victor Matheson for the North American Sports Economists Association titled “Financing Professional Sports Facilities, “Construction costs alone for major league professional sports facilities have totaled in excess of $30 billion in nominal terms over the past two decades with over half the cost being paid by the public.” I think that’s a pretty accurate description of what is happening in Sacramento. Despite the fact that due to budget cuts schools in the Sac City Unified School Districs are closing, plans for a brand new arena for the Kings are going forward at the cost of $255 million dollars to the city. This cost will apparently be offset by leasing out parking structures for $200 million. This deal is not good for the long-term benefit of the city, and even councilwoman Sandy Sheedy (who voted against the arena deal) has noted that arena’s do not provide much economic benefit to cities, and that Sacramento can’t really afford an arena: “This city is on the verge of insolvency. As far as I know, we still technically qualify for bankruptcy under federal law,”  she said. People argue the arena will attract jobs and revenue to the city, but Dave Berri  in his article “How the NBA Takes Money from People Who Don’t Like Basketball” at Freakonomics points out, there are many flaws with this argument.

Berri writes that in the Matheson/Baade study noted above, it was discovered that when other studies were set out to determine if sports arenas do in fact bring economic benefit to cities, the results depended on who conducted the studies. The studies conducted by independent researchers concluded that proof of economic benefit to cities was scarce. In addition, Berri points out that Baade and Matheson suggest three reasons why sports arenas don’t bring as much economic benefit to cities. These are the substitution effect, the crowding-out effect, and the leakage effect. The leakage effect is important to note, because though the Kings do pay their players very large sums of money, it is doubtful a majority of the players and other high-paid Kings employees actually live in Sacramento, spending their money elsewhere. Berri also notes that because there is a limited number of sports teams, major league sports associations have monopolies over cities and can, as the Kings did, threaten to re-locate. This would make fans upset at Mayor Kevin Johnson, who would then take that anger out against him at the voting booth, therefor giving Mayor Johnson a strong incentive to do all he can to get a new arena built to keep the Kings in town.

The Sacramento Kings Logo and Mascot

Some would argue that if the Kings relocated, Sacramento will have nothing left. However, if the money currently being allocated to build a new arena for the Kings was invested back into the city, Sacramento could be known for other things than just its (struggling) sports team. The existence of a national sports team is not the only thing that makes a city, and besides, the Raiders, the Giants, the A’s, the 49ers, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Jose Sharks (for those rare NHL fans) are all within a drive’s distance- Oakland, for example, is only an hour and a half away. Before Sacramento goes paying for a shiny new arena (I still don’t understand what was wrong with the Power Balance Pavilion in the first place), the city should focus on much-needed infrastructure fixes and keeping it’s schools open, and taxpayers should not be paying for these arenas and stadiums anyway- the major league associations that want them should. Government has no place in financing the construction of sports stadiums for professional sports teams.

Despite a bad economy, despite school closures, despite all the things the city could really use that $255 million for- somehow, somewhere, it was decided the construction of a new Kings arena was more important than all those things. I wonder, when the arena is finally built, and fans fill the arena, will they wonder why the arena is the only nice thing in Sacramento anymore? Will the bright, fancy, new stadium distract them from the decrepit schools in the area, or the potholes in the city roads? Will the $7.00 beer taste good enough to make them forget that the true cost of the new Sacramento sports arena is their children’s education? Probably, because that’s what sports seems to really be for: distracting people from important things that are actually going on, that are infinitely more important than the Kings arena and their basketball games.



  1. common sense says:

    I’m glad that someone is talking about the real issues of the new arena. I am an opponent as well and for many of the same reasons. Thanks for saying the things that are not fun and popular.

  2. common sense says:

    Thanks for voicing the unpopular opinion. I agree wholeheartedly that schools should be the priority over the mess we are going to get down at the Railyards

  3. The reason your opinion is unpopular is because it’s poorly thought out and ignorant. The money for an arena has absolutely no connection to schools, firemen, policemen, helping the homeless, spaying and neutering your pets, etc., so you’re barking up the wrong tree. The very fact that you admit your lack of understanding as to why Power Balance Pavilion won’t suffice pretty much says all we need to know about how educated you are on this topic. It’s no wonder this city has so much trouble getting things done, because I’m sure that there are many that are just as far in the dark. If the team leaves, the money earmarked for the arena disappears. It doesn’t go towards something else. The two are completely unrelated, so next time get your facts straight and do a little reading before spouting nonsense.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic, Nate! I would like to note, however, that I did “do a little reading” prior to “spouting nonsense;” I provided many links to other articles on the topic, and did in fact do research on the topic. I disagree that my opinion is “poorly thought out and ignorant,” and in fact, I cited many reputable sources and studies in this article. But thanks for reading! 🙂

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