I've long been opposed to the use of public monies to finance Major League ballparks. For one thing, these teams are owned by billionaires, almost all of the revenues a park brings goes right back to the team, not the city, and I don't think local government should be in the business of giving such handouts to billionaires. For another thing, I don't know too many cities who have been so flush with cash in the past several decades that they couldn't have used the hundreds of millions they're spending on the ballpark for something more important. Finally, even if you're all for a city giving millions it doesn't have to billionaires, the details of these ballpark deals are always shady, and the true cost to the taxpayers only becomes evident years after all of the initial hoopla and rosy projections.
In light of all of that, this news regarding Nationals Park in Washington doesn't surprise me in the least:
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is planning to divert millions of dollars from the ballpark tax to reduce the city's deficit. The Ballpark Revenue Fund is intended to pay down the debt on Nationals Park. But Fenty's revised 2010 budget shifts $50 million from it to the general fund over the next four years.
And it's not as if the ballpark debt is going to go away. It's now simply going to cost a strapped city even more to service, thereby raising the ultimate price of the Lerner family's new toy box/cash machine even higher than was projected when the place was built.
I love baseball. For the most part I love the new ballparks. There is no escaping the fact, however, that these ballparks represent horrible, horrible deals for tax payers.