Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

How St. Louis Got the Rams

Today's St. Louis Post Dispatch has this article describing how St. Louis got the Rams to move from Los Angeles in 1995. It also describes why St. Louis gave public funds for the project.

A common way to drum up support for public funding for sports stadiums is to trumpet supposed economic benefits from the stadium - more jobs and higher wages. Contrary to how the public funding proponents for an NFL stadium in Arlington, Texas are going about it (and how it's usually done), the article plays up the externality-generating ability of a professional sports franchise with no attention to its ability to enhance the city's economy.

Here are some quotes from the article

From Allison Collinger, the Rams director of corporate relations: "I think you can't underestimate the esteem and prestige value that an NFL team brings to the community, whether you're successful or whether you're not. It's an important measure of the vitality of the region."

Beer distributor Jerry Clinton "We were feeling pretty much like losers here. People were talking about the days we lost the St. Louis Browns baseball club, and then we lost the St. Louis Hawks basketball team, and now we're losing the football team. I know what that can do to a community, it puts it on a negative spin, and it affects a lot of people in adverse ways."

Then-mayor Vincent Schoemehl: "It's the role of government to do things to make life a fulfilling and complete experience. Education, community activities, arts, sports - they make the quality of life in a community."
This passage is also telling:
Political operative Joyce Aboussie "had received a copy of the Baltimore Sun from a friend in Baltimore who wanted to gloat that his city was en route to securing an NFL team - the Los Angeles Rams - while her city had failed."
There is no mention of job creation or wage improvement in the article. Instead the article sums up the decision to subsidize construction of the Edward Jones Dome ($280 million from 1993-1995) in St. Louis thusly: 1. Professional sports brings prestige to a community; 2. The people in the community felt like losers when other professional sports teams left the area; 3. It's government's job to do things to make life a complete and fulfilling experience; 4. We were jealous some other community was going to get a team and their officials were going to gloat.

But no new jobs or higher wages.