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OPINION: Utahns need to say “No!” to taxpayer-subsidized professional sports stadiums



I’ve admired our state’s commitment to fiscal conservatism over the years and appreciate Utah’s financial stability. However, the question of taxpayer-subsidized professional sports stadiums now beckons our great state and raises concerns about our values and priorities. It’s time to push back on socializing the cost of professional sports to benefit private organizations.

Study after study has demonstrated the positive economic impact promised by lobbyists and advocates of taxpayer-funded stadiums doesn’t come to fruition. Despite pie-in-the-sky projections of job creation and tax revenue, the real benefits are often far less than initially promised. 

In the last week, we’ve seen proposals for nearly $2 billion in state assistance for an MLB and NHL stadium. What happened to Utah’s way of fiscal conservatism? It has been lost in the excitement of shiny new stadiums and the allure of professional sports. 

I’m an avid sports fan. I understand the joy of attending games and supporting my team. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in personal seat licenses and season tickets for my beloved Las Vegas Raiders and BYU Cougars. My family and I choose to make that financial decision with our own money. However, I refuse to ignore the injustice of socializing the cost of professional sports for privatized profit.

While I look forward to being a frequent visitor to the proposed new MLB and NHL stadiums, I can’t ignore the fact that taxpayers are being asked to subsidize the financial gains of billionaires like Gail Miller and Ryan Smith. These people are worth billions of dollars, and while their success and community contributions are commendable, they do not need taxpayers to make them even wealthier.

The use of tax breaks, such as tax increment financing (TIF) and bonds, only burden hard-working blue-collar taxpayers further. Who do you think ends up funding police and emergency services, addressing homelessness issues, and maintaining roads and transportation systems around these sports and entertainment districts? The taxpayers. 

Legislators like to tout funding mechanisms like hotel tax increases, rental car tax increases and specific district-only increases. These taxes target out-of-town visitors and tourists, but they still affect everyday Utahns, even if indirectly. 


What about the family in Salt Lake City temporarily receiving medical care at the University of Utah who need hotel rooms? Their financial and emotional stress is at an all-time high, but who cares? They can fund the sports stadiums. What about out-of-town grandparents who want to visit their children and grandchildren? Should they be burdened with funding professional sports stadiums? Some say yes. What about when our tourism taxes get too high, and we lose visitors, conventions and trade shows to other competitive cities?

Additionally, these “taxing districts” and private-public partnerships remove accountability and control from elected officials and, ultimately, the voters to unelected bureaucrats. It’s time for the government to stop picking winners and losers, especially when Utah taxpayers emerge as the losers.

We need to prioritize fiscal responsibility and reject the urge to use public funds to subsidize private profits for professional sports. 

Don’t we have a long list of other priorities right now? Education? Homelessness? Transportation? Let’s get back to the Utah way.

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