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Stadium expected to sit empty 12 years after it opened

August 28, 2018 09:45 PM

A little over 10 years ago, an author penned a book predicting the city's soccer stadium couldn't pay for itself. 

Now, that stadium is slated to sit empty just 12 years after it opened.

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David Cay Johnston wrote Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill).

Chapters are dedicated to the funding of stadiums at the expense of taxpayers. 

"Every sports stadia in America is financed by your tax dollars. That is money that could be used on police, fire, schools, or to lower your taxes," explained David Cay Johnston in a sit-down interview with News10NBC.

He calls the current system 'welfare for the super-rich'.

"If you're wealthy enough to own a team; the Yankees, the Bills, or the Rhinos, you don't need welfare," he expressed.

Not only did the City of Rochester provide funding for the stadium, it continues to pay $600,000 in maintenance and utility costs every year.

David Cay Johnston points out that while the city pays to maintain the facility, team owners benefit from naming rights and concession sales. 

Even though stadiums are funded with public money, the team's finances aren't public record.

"Not only do owners get to keep the gravy; the naming rights, the concessions. But they're not accountable to the people who made their wealth possible. That's not arguing we shouldn't have sports teams. But let's do it on a reasonable basis," he said.

He explains simple steps to make that possible:
- Taxpayers should be paid back first
- Teams should be tied to a lease until the bonds are paid back
- The team's finances should be open records.

He points out, "If an investment is sound the market will finance it. If it isn't sound then why should you and I be forced through the tax base to subsidize it?"

City spokesperson, Jessica Alaimo, tells News10NBC, "The recent decision by the Rhinos to vacate Marina Auto Stadium gives the city the opportunity to pursue uses that will both decrease cost and increase benefit to the taxpayers and the region as a whole."

The city continues with a decade-old promise that the stadium will bring jobs to the area and enhance the neighborhood.

"Venues such as Marina Auto Stadium and others have potential to be a boon to the local economy. When managed effectively, they draw tens of thousands of visitors to the city each year. Helping local businesses both inside and out of the stadium gates creates jobs, leading to safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities," stated Alaimo.

David Cay Johnston disagrees.

"There is not a stadium in this country that has caused economic revival. The logical place to build a stadium is in an industrial area that is economically inefficient for any other use, not where we built the two stadiums here in Rochester," he said.

The Rhinos announced last week they plan on building a new stadium in Monroe County for the 2020 season.

Who will pay for it remains to be seen.

Credits

Stephanie Robusto

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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