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The myth of ‘no public funding’ for new Raiders, Warriors projects

November 22, 2015

By Ron Leuty : bizjournal – excerpt

When a sports team or politician pledges that no public money will be used on a new sports facility, politely nod, step back and call “bull.
Cases in point: the Golden State Warriors’ and Oakland Raiders’ planned billion-dollar palaces.

To some extent, public money always is involved — and needed, for example, to upgrade infrastructure that helps a broader development beyond ballparks, stadiums and arenas. But the extent to which taxpayers and future generations are on the hook depends on how creative — or disingenuous — politicians and teams are with the real-world implications of their “no public money” pledges.

Do they mean no taxpayer dollars will be spent on new stadiums at all, or just the construction of the structures? In the best-case scenario, how will an (insert realistic dollar amount here) investment of public dollars actually benefit the public? In a worst-case scenario, how much of a new-stadium bill would taxpayers foot if teams wiggle out of a city’s legal grasp.

At the core, we really should ask why it’s assumed to be a city’s responsibility to come up with a facility plan for multimillion-dollar businesses with unicorn-like valuations of more than $1 billion. But let’s not tackle that deeper philosophical question now.

Instead, let’s look at how the different approaches San Francisco and Oakland are taking on two vastly different projects.

In San Francisco, the use of public funds connected to the Warriors’ planned arena is much more defined (transportation upgrades), involves less money ($55.3 million) and, potentially, has a safeguard built in for the city. Still, the privately financed project has a potential public overhang of $30 million… (more)

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