As talk about the NFL’s possible return to Los Angeles continues to heat up once again, the public should temper its excitement until it is fully known where the financing of a new stadium will come from. Los Angeles should not fall prey to the same trap that so many American cities have and should resist using taxpayer money to build a new football stadium.
Though Los Angeles is constantly used as a bargaining chip within the NFL to scare smaller cities into building new stadiums for their teams, the chances of a team or teams actually moving to LA is bigger than it has been in years. With three teams—the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams—all posturing to move to Los Angeles as their current stadium situations become untenable, several stadium possibilities are being drawn up by the teams’ owners.
While the long-planned downtown LA stadium now seems less likely after the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) tabled their plan for Farmers Field, the Rams are pursuing a stadium in Inglewood, and the Chargers and Raiders have proposed a stadium in Carson. Both these plans are in their infancies and have not yet elaborated or broken down where their funding would come from.
There seems to be a solid amount of local support for each of these plans, with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti continuing to back the possibility of a downtown stadium, the Chargers and Raiders gathering 14,000 signatures on a petition in Carson and the mayor of Inglewood lobbying for the Rams’ plan. The political enthusiasm for these plans should not be blindly accepted, and LA-area taxpayers owe it to themselves to ensure that the appealing possibility of an NFL franchise or two returning to the city does not saddle citizens with a financial burden.
The NFL, its franchises and its team owners rake in money at a rate unlike any other sports league. They should not be given the extra assistance of tax subsidies on stadiums when they move teams around or build new facilities. It is unlikely that any of these plans, if they were to be approved, would be completely privately financed. Some of the burden would inevitably fall on taxpayers and would be justified by politicians and the NFL’s insistence that a new stadium would create jobs for the community.
This rhetoric gets repeated in every city where a new professional sports stadium gets built in America, and it’s a tired refrain. Professional sports stadiums and arenas are prioritized in municipalities all around this country over infrastructural and municipal programs that would do far more good for communities, and it is imperative that Los Angeles does not blindly continue this trend. This is not to say that the NFL shouldn’t return to LA, but if it does, it should be on terms that benefit Angelenos as football fans and do not burden them as taxpayers.