|Legislators huddle before Senate hearing on Vikings stadium, March 2012. Photo by Aaron Klemz|
Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis opened in 2008 and when the stadium's operating costs quickly exceeded projections, the pressure fell on the Capital Improvement Board, the public body that operates the stadium. "The operating expenses increased because the new venue -- I don't want to say quite doubled the size -- but it was a much larger venue" than the Colts' older stadium, said Dan Huge, the board's chief financial officer. "There was definitely a step up."
In response to the financial crisis, he said, state lawmakers in Indiana authorized a hotel and motel tax and created a sports development area -- two moves that now generate $11 million a year extra for the operating costs of both the stadium and a nearby convention center.Cincinnati, another city with a new football stadium, has the same problem. Their solution is even worse:
In Cincinnati, where the NFL's Bengals got a new stadium in 2000, the costs have forced Hamilton County to sell a hospital. Greg Hartmann, the county board president, said the county not only paid for most of the stadium's construction, but also pays for most of its escalating operating costs.
"I'd love to trade with you," he said, in explaining the county's stadium dilemma.What does that say about our priorities as a society? And what does it say about our ideas of "public infrastructure" and "private enterprise" when we'll privatize a public hospital in order to pay the operating costs of a public stadium build for the benefit of a private enterprise?
Our priorities are exactly backwards. Hospitals, not stadia.
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