In the early 1980s, I visited Indianapolis from Chicago. I thought construction of a football stadium here was rather odd, given Indianapolis lacked a National Football League® team. “Field of Dreams” had yet to be produced, but the concept of “build it and he will come” was a reality. Mayflower® moving trucks, as everyone well knows, transported the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1983.
The Colts now have played as the team of Indianapolis longer than as the team of Charm City.
Professional sports franchises had relocated before the Colts’ move from Baltimore. Citizens of Baltimore still seem to bristle when the Ravens play the Colts, but those fans should be careful. “Their” Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball® team originally played in Milwaukee as the Brewers (for one season), before a move to St. Louis as the St. Louis Browns.
Those times were different. Indianapolis shelled out money for a new football stadium, offered sweet tax incentives, and enabled the owners of the Colts to reach billionaire status—in a business that is a monopoly. At the time, one article I read reported the deal made the Colts the most profitable franchise in the NFL®.
Indianapolis provided an example of what other cities could do to lure professional franchises. The football Cardinals relocated to Arizona from St. Louis. St. Louis, not to be outdone, offered spiffy incentives and the Rams moved East from Los Angeles. The late Al Davis had moved his Raiders from Oakland to L.A., then back to Oakland. What is reported as the second-largest media market in the United States—Los Angeles—was left without a team in the most popular professional sport.
Now Los Angeles area folks discuss construction of a $1.8 billion stadium. There is no plan for expansion of the NFL®, so a team would have to relocated from another place.
Owners of the San Diego Chargers® are in talks with San Diego leaders in an attempt to leverage a new stadium. Oakland Coliseum is old, suffers from plumbing and electrical problems, and is the home of a professional football team that has moved before—twice.
One wonders what lucre cities will offer to keep their beloved teams, and what Los Angeles will offer as incentives for other teams to move.
There was an old adage that “there oughtta be a law,” to embody how government should respond to a problem. Ronald Reagan’s that government is not the solution but is the problem—a variation of a saying of one of his former constituents, Eldridge Cleaver (if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem)—caused that phrase to be shelved for a while.
I am a sports fan. I particularly enjoy baseball. I watch college hoops. (I am trying to avoid watching football, because of the head injuries suffered by the athletes. That matter is for another blog.)
However, there should be Federal legislation that bans subsidization of professional sports. The leagues are monopolies. The owners are rich. To allow municipalities or States to subsidize the franchises only means those governments—not the owners’ teams—will engage in ruthless competition to land a franchise. Ultimately, the lure of jobs—however ephemeral or low-paying—will trump all else as taxes completely are eliminated for professional sports.
We have streets, schools, police, parks, libraries, and other matters about which to worry and for which to spend public monies.
While I enjoyed reading “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, I do not enjoy paying higher taxes so the owner of the Colts can buy the original manuscript of Kerouac’s novel.
And remember—franchise owners’ threats can be made at any time. We have built two stadiums for the Colts—and still pay for the bonds used to build the first stadium, The Hoosier Dome.