by Dave Kopel
St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sept. 15, 1999. More by Kopel on corporate welfare.
Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies team, has turned out to be a great deal for baseball fans like me. But for Colorado taxpayers, it's been lousy.
During the campaign for a taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium, voters were promised that the stadium would be the best in baseball. And that promise was kept. The stadium is beautiful inside and out. It is a delightful place to watch a ballgame. As a season ticket holder, I love it.
Unfortunately, all the promises made to the taxpayers failed to come true. Voters were promised that the private sector would pay 30 percent of stadium construction costs. Voters said yes. But taxpayers ended up with the entire $156 million cost; the team ownership didn't pay a penny.
The stadium was also supposed to promote economic development in Denver. And indeed, many restaurants and sports bars have sprung up in a one-and-one-half block radius around the stadium.
Beyond the restaurant and bar ring surrounding the stadium, lower downtown is not a bit improved. Once you move more than a block and a half from Coors Field, the only visible economic effect is that some businesses are able to sell parking spaces. Skid row remains a mere two blocks from Coors Field.
More generally, the baseball/restaurant/bar development has not made Denver as a whole more prosperous; it has simply diverted entertainment revenue into different pockets. The first year the Rockies came to town, the Children's Museum nearly had to close because attendance fell so sharply.
I have a great time watching baseball at Coors Field. But the folks who don't go to baseball games haven't gotten anything back for the subsidy that they're giving to the Rockies management and to me.