Pistons Move to Downtown Comes With Big Taxpayer Price Tag

Mackinac Center experts comment on the deal in state media

Detroit’s four professional sports teams will soon be housed within walking distance of one another, but that close proximity will come at a hefty cost to taxpayers.

The Detroit Pistons announced this week they will move to Little Caesars Arena next season, joining the Detroit Red Wings who already play there. The Tigers and Lions play at Comerica Park and Ford Field, respectively.

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Taxpayers will fork over $34.5 million to subsidize the move through arena improvements. According to Mlive, that’s on top of the $250 million taxpayers paid toward construction of the arena.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, spoke with a number of media outlets across the state about the deal. He told the Associated Press that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund private business ventures or take on the risk associated with such deals. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, LaFaive said subsidizing the stadium means tax dollars cannot be spent in other places where they may be more necessary.

“If it's reasonable, then they should have no trouble raising the money through private means,” he said. "What is the opportunity cost to building these stadiums? Is it a library not funded? Is it a school underfunded?”

The Detroit Metro Times noted that believing corporate welfare is wrong and a bad deal for taxpayers is something on which people from a wide range of ideologies can agree. The outlet quoted Mackinac Center Vice President for Marketing and Communications John Mozena and pointed to a study that finds sports stadiums fail to cause new businesses in the area to open.

“Instead of creating new demand and new customers for bars and restaurants, subsidized stadiums unfairly compete for a consumer’s entertainment dollar with those businesses,” Mozena said.

The Metro Times went on to note that when entities that don’t typically find themselves on the same side of an issue agree, there’s reason to listen.

“Let's just say that when MT and MCPP agree that something is wrong, it's hard to dismiss it as a fringe complaint.”

Read the full AP article here.

Read the full article in Mlive here.

Read the full article in the Detroit Free Press here.

Read the full article in the Detroit Metro Times here.

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