July 3, 2017

America's Priciest National Pastime

Michael D. Farren

Senior Research Fellow
Summary

Sports subsidies aren't worth the cost to taxpayers.

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A favorite debate over Fourth of July barbecues is whether football has replaced baseball as our national pastime. (Sorry basketball and hockey.) Each year newspapers run hand-wringing articles lamenting or extolling the change.

However, America's true pastime has become sports subsidies, despite economists' nearly unanimous belief that they are a terrible deal for taxpayers.

Between 1990 and 2010, 84 new facilities were built for the 122 teams playing in the four largest professional sports leagues. The combined construction cost was $34 billion, with $20 billion coming from public funding. Furthermore, 36 of the 45 new facilities built since the year 2000 were financed using municipal bonds, which are exempt from federal taxes, meaning taxpayers across the nation will contribute at least $3 billion more to subsidizing professional sports.

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