Like so many in the metro area, I was impressed by the outpouring of support and high quality of play by the New Mexico United in its inaugural season. Considering the timing of United’s success, which came in the wake of UNM eliminating its men’s soccer team, it illustrates that private options are often better and more popular than publicly funded ones, even in the world of sports.
The same can be said for stadium construction. I have studied and worked on issues involving publicly financed sports stadiums since the 1990s. Economists across the political spectrum all agree that taxpayer-financed stadiums are economic losers. In a 2017 poll, 83% of the economists surveyed agreed that “providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams is likely to cost the relevant taxpayers more than any local economic benefits that are generated.”
One interesting note about United’s initial effort to obtain public financing for its stadium is that it is going to the Legislature first. This is somewhat unusual because sports teams are amenities that primarily benefit the local population in terms of enhanced entertainment options.
How many people travel from Carlsbad, Clovis, Farmington or Las Cruces to New Mexico United games? I don’t know the answer to that, but it is undoubtedly a tiny fraction of United’s fan base. With that in mind, why should New Mexico taxpayers as a whole pay for a stadium used largely by Albuquerque residents?