NewsNationalDemocracy 2018


Millions of taxpayer dollars spent on sports stadiums—who's benefiting?

Posted at 12:41 PM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 14:41:22-04

Last year, taxpayers paid nearly $700 million for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons. New multi-million dollar sports facilities are being built all the time across the country to keep and attract teams. But who’s really benefiting from these big investments?

It’s a similar story for Georgia’s baseball stadium.

"It's about a $672 million facility, SunTrust Park,” says Derek Schiller, president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves.

Out of that $672 million, Schiller says roughly $400 million came straight from taxpayers in Cobb County, Georgia. It came after a measure approved by a five-person commission.

"They were elected by the community to represent them,” Schiller says.

The total $1.1 billion project inside and outside the stadium was all part of a public-private package deal, and taxpayers like Georgia resident Anthony Sierra seem to be enjoying it.

"For everything I’ve seen lately, it's been a nice, little spot,” Sierra says.

Sierra and his friend Brittany Reynolds say, overall, they're happy. However, they do question if their tax dollars could've been better spent.

“I wasn't aware of the amount of money that went into it, Reynolds says.

"There's so much other things your money could go towards, like education."

While this may seem like a game with public funds, Schiller says the long-term goal is to make it a home run for all, saying the stadium provides “great economic vitality” to the community.

"And within a few short years, the taxpayer will actually make money off of this entire arrangement,” Schiller says.

He says the future revenue will eventually be funneled back into local needs, like education.

“$15 million of that goes to the Cobb County school system,” Schiller says.

Whether you think this is a win or loss for taxpayers, both sides agree on one thing.

"I think it’s an eyeopener for folks to make sure they're being politically savvy,” Sierra says.

In order to have a say on this stadium or any other, it's all about stepping up to the plate to vote.

“I really do think it's important for fans and constituents to know what we are doing with their funds and how their dollars are put to use,” Schiller says.