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Stick taxpayers with soccer stadium tab?

After a successful inaugural season that included a trip to the playoffs, the New Mexico United soccer team is now looking for a permanent venue to call home with some help from taxpayers.

The team played its premier season in Isotopes Park, but with its lease due to expire in 2021, the quest to find a new home is underway.

This legislative session, state lawmakers will consider a proposal seeking $30 million of taxpayer funds to help build a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium in Downtown Albuquerque. The total cost is estimated to be somewhere in the ballpark of $100 million.

Building a new stadium is a wonderful idea that will surely boost morale and instill a feeling of hometown pride across the state. But taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill. And if other cities have taught us anything, it’s that promises of sports stadiums sparking economic growth never live up to the hype.

Every time a professional sports team is looking to build a new stadium, hard-working families are asked to bear a significant portion of the financial burden. “If you build it, the economic benefits will come,” we are told, as projected figures of job growth and economic booms are used to entice taxpayers to fork over funds without complaint.

These promises rarely come to fruition, and cities with high hopes for economic growth often find themselves worse off than they were before.

In a 2015 study, professor of economics at the University of Maryland Dennis Coates examined every city with a major-league team between the years of 1969 and 2011.

Contrary to the claims made by the teams, his research found the presence of professional sports tended to have negative economic impacts. Cities with major league teams frequently saw their per capita GDP drop and residents became worse off than they were before.

Coates’ comprehensive study isn’t an outlier.

In another study from 1999, economist Raymond Keating reached a similar conclusion. During the 20th century, $15 billion in government subsidies had been spent on major league arenas. Overall, this spending often failed to generate positive economic impact for local communities or create new jobs

A new study from economists Cailin Slattery and Owen Zidar, from Columbia and Princeton respectively, did not find any significant evidence suggesting tax incentives like stadium subsidies stimulate economic growth.

Why is there such a dramatic discrepancy between what major league teams promise and what the studies show? For starters, the studies that support claims of economic growth are commissioned by the teams themselves and conducted by their own consultants.

According to research by the Mercatus Center, these studies do not account for the costs of the subsidies and only highlight the benefits.

The truth is these funds must be taxed out of the local economy to pay for the stadium. And this dramatically reduces local economic development. In Cincinnati, stadium subsidies diverted money away from other public works projects, such as schools and hospitals, and resulted in a loss of 1,700 jobs.

This is not to say that building a stadium is a bad idea. But using taxpayer funds to do so most certainly is, as the studies show.

New Mexico United had a phenomenal opening season, with its attendance ranking first among the entire United Soccer League. On average, 11,100 people attended each game with ticket prices ranging from $13-$99.

Tack on concessions and merchandise, and there can be no doubt that the team is doing very well financially.

With revenue this high, it seems unnecessary for taxpayers to pay such a high cost when the benefits just aren’t there.

Handing out welfare to billionaires is not in the best interest of New Mexicans. Legislators should stand up for the taxpayers and vote no on subsidizing a new soccer stadium this legislative session.

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