Arena Economics, 101

16 Aug

Last September,  I received an email from Darcy Norman, an Honours Economics graduate from the University of Alberta. Darcy was in his last year at the UofA at the time, and had completed his honours thesis, under the supervision of Professor Brad Humphreys, on the issue of public subsidies and sports stadiums. More specifically, he wrote a literature survey on the public subsidy of sports stadiums in an Edmonton context. The scope and thrust of his essay, Do Citizens Gain from a Publicly Subsidized Stadium?, is as follows:

“Academics have expended much brainpower on the question of the benefits of publicly funded stadia. This essay will reveal that it is generally a bad idea for the public to finance such ventures. This thesis will be examined from the viewpoint of three different citizen groups: taxpayers concerned with the economic costs of the arena, taxpayers concerned with the aura, prestige and vitality of the city and taxpayers concerned with their enjoyment of the sports team.”

Darcy suggested that his paper “might make for a good introduction to the less academically inclined as to what is pretty much a consensus in academia: subsidizing sports arenas is a bad idea.” I could not agree more. Darcy’s essay is a fantastic primer on the issue of arena economics. It is highly accessible and very easy to read. It took me about 30 minutes, and at no time was I confused or slapped silly with formulas and tables. Yet the logical clarity, the evidence and the links to further studies are all there. Most importantly, it is written with knowledge of the debate in Edmonton, and addresses some of the claims that have been made by pro-arena advocates in the city. With Darcy’s permission, I’m going to post the essay in the “Resources” section of the site. I really encourage anyone who is interested in this issue to have a look at Darcy’s paper.


2 Responses to “Arena Economics, 101”

  1. The Other John August 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm #


    The worst part of the argument, is that if someone truly understands this issues, they are reduced to arguing……..but if they build a great downtown …..won’t that be exceptional.

    To that I say; that is true but if my grandma had balls she would be my grandpa

  2. Paul Hughes August 17, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    Now this is the type of info citizens, elected officials & policy wonks need to make informed decisions. Well done.

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