By Dan DeNeve
With Los Angeles winning the 2028 summer Olympics, naturally the topic of government-funded stadiums, arenas and venues will come up. In their revised and expanded 2008 edition, authors Neil deMause and Joanna Cagan address this topic in Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. I must admit up front I was against any public funding for these monstrous cathedrals before reading the book. However, after reading this book, I was even more incensed and can no longer support public funding in any way, if the stadium is for private use and profit, and that includes if the stadium is used a few times a year for charitable events.
Cagan and deMause trace the last quarter century of owners complaining that they need new stadiums for a variety of reasons, especially if fans want a winning team. The authors go on to outline the owners’ strategy to get these stadiums, including moving the team to a city, which will give them a shiny, new venue. If you ever believed in a free market system, this book will quickly disassociate yourself of that idea. Worse are the lies, cover-ups and cost overruns that these behemoths really amount to and how often it is the tax payer that gets the bill. For example, Montreal needed 30 years to pay off its Olympic Stadium. Seattle was paying off the Kingdome while covering the cost of a new ballpark. Even worse are the stadiums like Montreal, which are no longer used and have a roof that doesn’t work. Then there is the New York/New Jersey saga, which resulted in two new baseball stadiums and a new football stadium, costing more than a combined $3 billion for stadiums, garages and needed infrastructure. At least $1 billion of that amount was covered by tax payers for the parking garages and other infrastructure, which unfortunately is money tax payers will never get revenue from. Then, there are the sagas of Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Minnesota and Indianapolis, to name a few, that are mentioned in the book.
It has been almost 10 years since this volume was written, but not much has changed. Since that time, deMause has maintained a blog, www.fieldofschemes.com that chronicles the continuing mess that is public-financed stadiums. Some of the schemes are sad, some are funny and some are just outright chicanery.
Although the Dana Point Library does not own this title, patrons can request this book though interlibrary loan.