Great Moments in Publicly Financed Sports Complexes


The Milwaukee Brewers spring training facility is in Maryvale, a less-than-fashionable part of Phoenix, Arizona. It’s not terribly old — built in 1998 — but that’s old by spring training standards, especially in Arizona. The park itself is kind of neat in my view. Easy to navigate, has some good food and has some good sight lines. It’s not trying to be old-timey or grander than it is. It’s a straightforward and pleasant place to watch a game. That’s all a baseball fan really needs, right?

Baseball teams, however, want so much more in their spring training facilities these days. They want development opportunities nearby — hotels and restaurants and amenities — and the ability to extract as much cash from visiting fans as possible. A straightforward ballpark in Maryvale doesn’t really do that, so the Brewers are looking for something new.

Enter the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, which would like to lure the Brewers to a new facility there. The Brewers are willing to put up only $20 million of the $90 million cost, however. Plus they’re eying an additional $70 million investment for an adjacent development with those hotels and restaurants and retail and stuff. Who pays for the $70 million is an open question, of course.

At the moment the financing of it all is up in the air, but the great Field of Schemes noticed something fun in a recent story about it.

Gilbert commissioned some consultants to see what kind of economic benefit the facility would create for the city. The results were not quite what they expected, however, revealing that the publicly-invested dollars would not result in a worthwhile return. So, that’s that then, right? If your experts say your use of tax dollars would be a bad deal, you don’t do the deal?

Hahaha, of course not. You just get different experts!

Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, said the Applied Economics study was fairly limited in its scope and did not take into account the indirect economic benefits of a potential stadium.

The chamber is working with a different economic consulting firm to provide a broader economic analysis. That report should be completed soon and will be turned over to town officials for review, Tilque said.

“It would be a great thing not only for the East Valley but for Gilbert. We just need to make sure the numbers work,” she said.

There is always absurdity involved when it comes to public officials justifying their giveaways to big business and moneyed interests. It’s just usually not so obvious.

Not that this place won’t get built with tax dollars. No amount of absurdity ever seems to stop that.