Seattle Mariners BaseballIn an attempt to get a new baseball field for Major League Baseball's (MLB) Seattle Mariners, voters were asked to mark yes or no on a tax increase to pay for the new park (Keating, 1997). In September 1995, King County taxpayers voted against the hike, but were ignored after the Mariners entered the American League playoffs for the first time and beat the New York Yankees. The exciting performance prompted local officials to reject the voice of the people and approve a $320-million plan for a new stadium. Like most stadium deals, the cost was greatly underestimated. The price tag jumped to $363.5 million, plus a parking garage listed at $20.5 million. One member of the Public Facilities District board noted that the project budget could be increased because the taxes designated to pay for the ballpark were generating more revenue than originally expected. Delays ensued, irritating the team, which was eventually put up for sale. The disputes were settled, the ballpark was built and the Mariners were to stay in Seattle, sticking taxpayers with an additional $50 million bill for the costs of extra borrowing, police details, cleanup and litigation.

Milwaukee Brewers BaseballA similar situation occurred in Wisconsin in 1995, when voters overwhelmingly rejected (64 percent to 36 percent) an increase in the sales tax to pay for a new stadium for the Brewers. Nonetheless, the state legislature passed a plan to build a $250-million stadium. By 1996, cost estimates for the ballpark increased to $313 million before the ground was even broken. Efforts to reduce the price tag back to its original estimate caused the opening date to be pushed back from 1999 to 2000. Citizens were so outraged at the events surrounding the entire deal that Republicans eventually lost control of the Senate. In fact, after voting against the tax twice, Senator George Petak changed his mind and cast the deciding vote in favor of the ballpark package. He ended up losing his re-election bid and the GOP majority.

San Francisco Giants BaseballAfter losing out four times to get a new, taxpayer-financed ballpark to house the Giants, the team stepped to the plate with a proposal to build a privately funded stadium. The "old-style" ballpark costing $262 million built without taxpayer dollars was built and owned by the team. Excitement reigns at the new Pacific Bell Park with home runs splashing into the San Francisco Bay just beyond the right field wall. Even though the stadium was thought to be privately owned, the government and taxpayers are still involved. The land used to build the stadium is leased rather than bought from the city. Also, $15 million in tax revenues helps pay for related infrastructure improvements. In an age when taxpayers are forced to pick up most of the costs, having more than 90 percent of the funding coming from the private sector is quite a feat.

Staples CenterThe Staples Center in Los Angeles opened in 1999 and is home to basketball's Lakers and Clippers and hockey's Kings. Billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns the Kings and has a minority interest in the Lakers, controls the Staples Center. The world champion Lakers draw big crowds, which allowed them to rake in $58 million in gate and club seat revenue last season. But the cash that Anschutz gets from corporate sponsorship at Staples Center is what puts his teams head and shoulders above the competition. New revenues from the arena are the reason the Lakers could sign star Laker center Shaquille O'Neal to a three-year, $88.5 million contract extension.

TD Waterhouse CentreManagement of the Orlando Magic has floated the idea of using some of the nickel-per-dollar tax on hotel guests to build a new basketball arena with a price tag of about $250 million (Maxwell, 2001). Built in 1989, the current TD Waterhouse Centre cost $110 million, but is now considered out-of-date by many standards. The tax would generate about $121 million, but is facing severe opposition by hoteliers and tourism leaders. County officials are claiming that the team is asking too much and giving too little. Currently, plans have been taken back to the drawing board and all sides are willing to compromise.

Mile High StadiumMile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, has been filled for every regular season game since the beginning of the 1970 season. Following two Super Bowl victories and the acquisition of key players, the team earned themselves a new place to call home. The 2000 season was the last for the Broncos in Mile High Stadium before the club moves into its new stadium, scheduled to open summer, 2001.

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