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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cautionary words

Before anyone spends another nickel of tax money on pro sports facilities, consider what one seasoned observer of the genre is saying these days:

I’m 5+ years removed from the main media sports biz now, so I’ve got a completely different perspective on where the spectator sports industry is going.

Kids, the golden years are behind us....

As I’ve been saying in this space for many months now, what you are going to see in the next five years is a spate of consolidation in the NHL, NBA and perhaps even MLB. I expect a handful of teams to relocate, and a few others to cease operation....

For those not in the affected markets, that consolidation will be good news for the sports industry. There’s too many teams, too many games, too much dilution to keep the typical person interested. (Yes commenters, there are exceptions!)

I would love to be able to say that pro sports will soon make a comeback and you will see sold-out stadia and TV ratings through the roof in the very near future. But the facts support that sports as a major investment in people’s lives, like so many other things in our culture, is being lapped every day by advancing technology.

Comments (11)

This is why I laugh so hard at the current boondoggle over the new Cowboys Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, it's already finished and ready for its first home game, but between inaccessibility and the obscene cost of tickets, a lot of friends and family are planning to watch a game in the new facility and then pack it in. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already infuriated most local fans in Dallas with his intent to milk every last penny he can: my sister-in-law, who practically bled blue and silver every winter, now points out that the only language Jones understands is "greed." Good luck on your new stadium, Jerry: I'm sure that Arlington will gleefully cover your costs when you decide it's time to move the franchise to a more "understanding" clime.

It would be interesting to hear Commissioner Leonard's reaction to this.

If he crams the stadium deal down the throats of the Lents neighbors, what will he say in 2015 when MLS folds and all that's left is a stadium, a giant parking lot, and 100 million bucks of debt? I can hear it now. "Sorry, I did the best I could." He should have to give up his pension if it doesn't work out like he promises.

This is a delusion of grandeur. Can anyone point to a recent pro-sports stadium success story in North America? Commissioner Leonard is ignoring common sense, reams of evidence, and even personal warnings from other politicians that similar plans have failed elsewhere. Yet he thinks that his plan is magically immune from failure.

We are f-ed.

MLS will fold long before 2015.

If soccer is so big here that we'll fill a renovated PGE Park- ask your friends and coworkers about arguably the biggest game of the year that was broadcast today. Go ahead, ask a coworker who played today? Mix it up a bit. Ask them who Lionel Messi is? Ask them what the UEFA Champions League is? Ask them if they know what country Eto'o is from. (4) Average Joes at lunch today in a table next to mine had no idea what game we were watching. Which is the point. Besides the few who can afford to pay thousands of dollars for their kids to play ODP or Premier Soccer, NOBODY CARES! Outside of that small community, who knows that there is a developmental squad Portland Timbers game this Saturday at Kiggins Bowl? Again, NOBODY CARES. Average Joe can tell you the batting average of nearly every pitcher in MLB but has no idea Man U played today vs ???? Go ahead, ask around- you'll see. Then ask yourself if renovating anything for soccer in this country is worth it. Remember, we couldn't even beat Ghana in the last World Cup. Think about that the next time you put Sally in the new Mercedes to treck off to U12 Premier Soccer Practice at the lit field.

Good point: You can tell everyone hates soccer because ... people were watching it at lunchtime. If no one cares, why wasn't baseball on?

I was the one that put soccer on and I turned it from ESPN where guess what, they were discussing baseball. Look, I want it to succeed just like everyone else in the soccer community. At some point though you have to be a realist. I'm 0 for 9 at my office regarding today's game but they all knew the Magic were one win away from the finals.

I watched the game. Seeing Manchester F*^(*&g United lose (in Hi Def no less) brought great joy to this Liverpool fan of 35 years.

Portland is a great soccer town and MLS could be very successful here. I'm all for being very nice and amenable to Paulson. That said, I'm opposed to using public money, at this or any other time, and think that a stadium in Lents is dumb on every level.

Jim, you may be interested in this Wikipedia story about AT&T park in San Francisco where the Giants play.


Imagine: a major league ballpark build without public funding (although the article mentions city paid supporting infrastructure and a tax break).

So the answer to your question is that, yes, there is a fairly recent example of a successful major league park; but it was built substantially without public funding!

If [Commissioner Leonard] crams the stadium deal down the throats of the Lents neighbors, what will he say in 2015...

Sorry. You won't see any such justice, if history is our guide. The year 2015 will have seen that council seat filled twice over, and we'll be dealing with that successor's current boondoggle.

IMHO, sports have become too much of a focus and gained too much value in our society. Don't get me wrong, I love a good game as much as anyone (especially college football) but we put too much value on athletes and sports in general. However, if the alternative is a Nintendo or Wii, then sports win hands down.

Jim, I've seen plenty of similar big plans in other cities to this, and it's amazing how many of them are still around. Why, just google "Auto World Flint" or "Old Chicago" to see how well those city-subsidized tourist projects worked out.

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