At least as far as the numbers go:
A recent analysis commissioned by the city — part of San Jose’s renewed quest to land the A’s — offers a rosy picture of the financial benefits such a stadium would bring.
But experts who study the economics of ballparks reviewed the numbers for the Mercury News and raised plenty of concerns. Chief among them: The cost for the city land the ballpark would be built upon is significant, they said. With three more parcels to buy, acquiring the land for the stadium over the years could amount to at least $42 million, according to a Mercury News analysis.
“You can’t come out saying that this doesn’t have a cost if all we’re supplying them (the A’s) is the land,” said Victor Matheson, associate professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “The land is very valuable real estate.”
This is the central problem with any stadium plan, even the ones where the public outlay is intended to be minimal. In fact, it’s probably even worse in those cases. If Whoville is going to actually build a stadium for the local nine, at least all of those expenditures are out in the open. Sure, the final price will end up being higher than anyone predicted, but at least it will be sold to the public as “Whoville taxpayers to pay for stadium.”
In places like the Bay Area, where pure public funding is a political impossibility, there are all kinds of incentives to hide the ball with respect to just how much the taxpayers are actually going be hit for. As the experts here note, nothing is free in this world, even when all of the politicians involved claim that it is.
I still think that San Jose is the right place for the A’s, and if I lived there, I don’t think I’d have a problem with some minimal public outlay to make it happen. But there has to be honesty from the government when it comes to this stuff. They can’t sell it as a painless financial panacea. Come out and say: “this will cost a little, but it will be worth a lot in the long run,” and let the chips fall where they may.
For much, much more on this — and I really mean much more — check out the most excellent “New A’s Ballpark” blog, which is all over the entire A’s-to-San Jose story.