What happens if a government defaults on stadium payments to a team?

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A lot of sports teams get payments from local governments to pay off stadium construction from diverted property taxes. The system is called tax increment financing – TIFs for short — and the decision of a government to offer that money to sports teams is based on the presumed rise in property tax revenues caused by the stadium being built. It’s a way for governments to claim that stadiums are paying for themselves, as the money wouldn’t have been coming in if the stadium hadn’t improved the overall area to begin with.

Except, often, that tax revenues don’t increase and the government just ends up paying for the stadium out of general tax dollars. By then, however, the stadium is built and people tend not to notice too much.

Neil deMause of Field of Schemes has a great post up today noting that, at least in Reno, Nevada, people are noticing. Indeed, there is at least some suggestion that the local government may just stop paying the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate for the new park out of general funds. deMause wonders what might happen if that actually were to occur.

It’s a great point about an often-overlooked side of public financing of sports facilities.