The NFL’s Welfare: Billions in Stadium Subsidies

Tonight the 2015 NFL season will kick off as the New England Patriots host their conference rival the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Win or lose, Patriots’ fans will have bragging rights beyond being the reigning Super Bowl champions: While Gillette Stadium accepted $72 million in public funding for construction, or 17 percent of the project’s total cost, Heinz Field, the Steelers’ home, cost taxpayers $171.6 million, or 61 percent of the project’s total cost.

Since 1997, NFL teams have constructed 20 new stadiums, receiving an average of $238 million per stadium in public funding and costing a total of $4.76 billion. The advisory firm Conventions, Sports, and Leisure compiled the cost of each of the 20 stadiums and the amount of public funds each stadium received.

Some teams were taxpayer heroes: MetLife Stadium, which the New York Giants and New York Jets share, didn’t cost taxpayers a penny—the two teams footed the $1.6 billion bill. Other teams, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals heavily relied on public funding for their new stadiums. The Buccaneers’ $194-million Raymond James Stadium was entirely funded by public money.

Last season, the NFL’s teams split a record $7.24 billion from the league’s revenue-sharing agreement, with each team receiving $226 million. This amount doesn’t include other revenues from things like ticket sales, including luxury suites and club tickets.

Subsidies for sports stadiums are only one example of the favoritism bestowed on business owners with the right government connections. The Charles Koch Institute has tracked cronyism and corporate welfare and the harmful effects they have on competition. The Charles Koch Foundation also supports new research into cronyism and how favoritism for the well-connected harms the U.S. economy as well as the well-being of Americans, consumers and yes, football fans.

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