More On: Super Bowl
Meanwhile, Virginia and Washington, D.C. are engaged in a bidding competition to determine whose taxpayers would get the opportunity to fund the new Washington Commanders stadium. This should not be the case.
SoFi Stadium, Southern California's gleaming new sports cathedral with its arching glass-and-steel lattice canopy, is on its way to become one of America's most recognizable sporting facilities.
SoFi Stadium will host its first (but likely not last) Super Bowl on Sunday night, when the local Los Angeles Rams face the surprise Cincinnati Bengals for the National Football League title. The national championship game of college football will be held there next year. The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics, as well as track and field and archery disciplines, are slated to take place there. And it's quite probable that SoFi will host some of the World Cup's most vital games in 2026.
The most notable aspect of the stadium, which will open in September 2020, isn't its very-SoCal architectural aspects or the crowded roster of high-profile events that will take place there.
It's because the billion-dollar stadium was constructed with no public funds. In terms of public policy, SoFi Stadium may be one of the most significant stadiums in American history, pointing to a future in which billionaires who love sports, rather than taxpayers, act as patrons of professional athletics rather than rent-seekers.
The guy behind SoFi Stadium is Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who relocated the club to Los Angeles after 21 seasons in St. Louis, Missouri. While there, the Rams played in the soulless Edward Jones Dome, which was erected with $280 million in public funds—some of which the city is still paying down, despite the fact that the team is no longer there.
The Rams' new stadium in Inglewood, which they share with the Los Angeles Chargers, who pay Kroenke rent to use the venue, is part of a larger complex that also includes a music hall, retail center, office buildings, condominiums, a luxury hotel, and a 25-acre park. The site's overall area is three times that of Disneyland, and total building expenditures are expected to be close to $5 billion, making it the most costly stadium ever constructed.
Of course, there is some cronyism at work. The city of Inglewood is enabling Kroenke to keep a portion of the sales taxes on purchases made in the stadium complex, a $180 million kickback, to pay for infrastructure and an internal bus transport system. You may also argue, as Stanford University economist and frequent stadium critic Roger Noll has, that the almost 300-acre site should have been put to better use. However, one of the benefits of the stadium being privately financed is that those opportunity costs are paid by Kroenke, his partner investors, and the NFL, rather than taxpayers. Overall, Noll told The Washington Post in 2019 that SoFi Stadium is "a tremendously fantastic value" when compared to any other stadium constructed in America during the previous three decades.
Of course, there are always sacrifices with any construction, and SoFi Stadium is no exception. The Los Angeles Times and Sports Illustrated both ran stories this week regarding the new stadium's influence on the nearby community. Property prices in the neighborhood are skyrocketing, which is excellent for homeowners but bad news for renters who are being priced out. Other folks grumble about game-day traffic and other changes that come with moving to a more desired location.
The SI story, in particular, is odd in that it presents itself as an examination into the stadium's "actual cost." Sure, there may be some negative tradeoffs—though it is far from clear that the stadium is to blame for the sharply rising property values, as Field of Schemes blogger Neil deMause explains here—but the "true cost" of SoFi Stadium is significantly less than any stadium built with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Maybe I'm overreacting because I live in Virginia, and my state legislature are apparently preparing a $1 billion package to entice the Washington Redskins Football Team Commanders to relocate from the Maryland suburbs of D.C. to the Virginia suburbs. According to deMause, who has made a career out of following these crony transactions, it is "perhaps the largest NFL stadium subsidy proposal in history," albeit the specifics are still unknown for the time being.
If that agreement is reached, the expenses will be shared by all Virginia residents, even those who live hours away from Washington and have no desire to attend a Commies game. They will not witness a rise in property prices or be able to benefit from increasing economic activity like the people of Inglewood. They will only get charges and no advantages.
The mayor of Washington, D.C., is apparently contemplating an offer that would probably leave the people of the area on the hook for a new football stadium as well. This is a bidding battle that taxpayers around the D.C. region should want to lose.
Dan Snyder, the owner of the Commanders, is a multibillionaire like Kroenke. If he wants a new stadium for his vanity project football club, he should pay for it himself. Meanwhile, local and state leaders around the nation should refer to SoFi Stadium as proof that taxpayers do not need to finance these projects.