Pro sports subsidy debate continues

Monday, November 12, 2007 at 1:08am

For eight years, former Mayor Bill Purcell cultivated an atmosphere that supporters of professional sports believed was unsympathetic to the teams here.

In that atmosphere, Nashville’s pro teams felt like Purcell constantly scrutinized them, giving them a hard time at every turn because he didn’t much care for the taxpayer-supported deals his predecessor Phil Bredesen forged to bring the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators to the city.

Purcell had his adherents in the community who helped him get elected, emboldening him.

However the Predators situation works out, one issue is clear — that atmosphere persists with verve in the community at large, even with a new mayor. There are many folks who simply think that money spent on pro sports would be better used for education or some other essential Metro service.

Certainly, their argument holds some merit.

But based on the logic used in opposing tax dollars for pro sports, Metro should never use taxpayer money to support any quality-of-life project or program. That would mean nixing public support for the arts or even greenways and parks.

To take it a step further, did the city need new and refurbished courthouses? Did the city really need a fancy new Courthouse Square with a parking garage under it?

To get picky, we could strip the budgets down to bare essentials and the mayor and Metro Council could operate out of leased office space.

Dissent is not evenly shared

There wasn’t nearly the same level of dissent when Purcell cut a sweet deal for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s downtown site and then Metro committed $15 million to help pay for construction.

Metro used taxpayer dollars in helping build the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There are plenty of other arts projects Metro has supported. Then look at the tens of millions being spent on constructing greenways or parks.

Few quibble over public support for the arts, although the “Ghost Ballet” on the East Bank is a head-scratcher. There’s no denying that the new symphony center is an excellent addition to downtown and improves Nashville’s cultural landscape.

There’s even less argument over spending tax dollars on greenways or parks. Parks and the arts are deemed quality-of-life necessities for a city, the combination of tranquility and culture for taxpayers.

A city’s economic development, its ability to attract or retrain employees and companies, depends a good bit on quality-of-life factors. And pro sports fits in that realm, as many economic developers will say.

No cultural contribution?

But as the disdainful thinking in some circles goes, pro sports are not “culture” and do not contribute to overall well being of society.

Furthermore, pro sports involve businesses run by people seeking to make a profit whether on an annual basis or when the teams are sold. That’s abhorrent to some folks and therefore pro sports are not worthy of any level of public subsidy or to be treated in the same way as other quality-of-life aspects of a city.

Interestingly, Councilman Michael Craddock notes the millionaires trying to tap into taxpayers as they try renegotiating the Sommet Center lease. But what about the billionaires who could have built the symphony center many times over by themselves, yet get public dollars?

It would be interesting to see an analysis on how the public dollars spent per local taxpayer using the greenways or going to the symphony compares to the dollars spent per local taxpayer who attends pro sports events.

It also would be interesting to see which brings in more people from outside Nashville to spend money here.

A good bet would be that professional sports perform better.

Filed under: City News
By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

They have attendance of less then 14,000 and many of them are from out of country. WE do not heve to or need to throw more millions at them.What kind of business people need city help buying something? Its either a good deal or not. IF not pass on it rather then beg like street corner bums.How good will a "TEAM" of 10 manage one team before they have internal fights and put the team up for sale again?It was a bad deal from the start especially giveing them the management too and if they stay we are stuck with the deal, if they leave we start with a clean slate and can start makeing money again like we were before Brede$en gave away the store.

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

In addition,this bright young fellow Lawson could probably compare the Predators value to the city versus schools,firehouses,fire hydrants,sidewalks,streets,ambulance service,police protection,libraries and garbage disposal. It all depends on ones philosophy as to what is the responsibility of a city or county. I could very well agree with the Lawson if I thought that the huge majority of Predators fans were Davidson County residents since they are the ones paying. This issue is about how much Davidson County money should be spent for any endeavor that is used by more of our neighboring county residents than ourselves.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm begining to think idgaf and Frank are one and the same.

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Titan1, I wish there were more people on earth like you Titan1. Good people,just a little naive'.

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wow So the author can not tell the difference between the government spending money on a greenway or a park (something that can be used by any citizen for free) compared to a for profit sports team? Sorry the comparison is just waaaaay off point.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Apparently there are some who just refuse to read tha actual articles before commenting. Either that or they have already made up their minds about the outcome. I call that narrow minded. The article focuses on how the previous administration handled ALL sports projects vs. othher quality of life projects in the city, I assume you must have missed that!

By: imdyinhere on 12/31/69 at 6:00

For me this is less about supporting sports and more about privatizing the revenue from publicly-owned assets. I hope the Predators stay, but the money can't just flow into the hands of the relative few who benefit financially.

By: flingding on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"Purcell cut a sweet deal for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s downtown site and then Metro committed $15 million to help pay for construction."How many people attend concerts here? What portion are from Davidson county? Or did they get the deal only because it is perceived as an 'upper' class thing to do and sporting events are for the blue collar types? Let them eat cake.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Great article. I like the way it points out the hypocrisy. Yeah the parks are a bad comparison, but the Country Music Hall of fame and Schemerhorn are great comparisons. People seem to realize their longterm value and contribution to the city at large, but won't in the case of sports?

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Public money should not have went to the Country Music Hall of fame and Schemerhorn either.Thats how we get ourselves into fiscal problems.The government should only provide what the private sector can't,won't or shouldn't provide.Next on the hit parade is the Convention Center where we will use public funds to compete against private industry that (alledgely) pays taxes (Gaylord) competeing against ourselves for the same dollars.Its idiotic.

By: julesy on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Davidson County spends close to $10,000 per student on education. With the recent bad report card on Davidson County schools, until we overhaul the educational system in Davidson County we don't need to give them any more money.

By: ActiveCitizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Whereas, some may consider culture only in the context of sophistication and refinements, it is actually the traditions, customs, and the way of life in the community.Because Nashville has attracted many new citizens from all over the world, the “culture” continues to expand. Life-long residents have seen the changes such as NHL hockey and other pastime concepts such as greenways, museums, art, and music.Mr. Lawson writes that “based on the logic used in opposing tax dollars for pro sports, Metro should never use taxpayer money to support any quality-of-life project or program. That would mean nixing public support for the arts or even greenways and parks”. Rather than even discuss the situation as Mr. Lawson has framed it, I just state that, on the contrary, it is simply a matter of what the majority of citizens desire when spending tax dollars for optional projects.Subsidizing the profit-making endeavors of private investors, such as professional sports, is a different matter than improving our public parks. Likewise, the Nashville Symphony is not an entity owned by private investors. Neither is the Courthouse, the Country Music Hall of Fame, or the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. I clearly see a difference is the projects, as well as, the ownership of them.There are a lot of businesses that generate sales tax revenues in our community. McDonald's, your dry cleaners, your grocery stores, even your liquor and tobacco retailers. Yet they do not receive subsidies, or government bail outs when they loose money.Bring in all of the sports teams that can be attracted here. If the investors can make a profit then hurray for them. Just don't use government tax dollars subsidize their profit-making ability.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I didn't realize that Gaylord was trying to build a downtown convention center?

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I have to largely agree with id, especially on the issue of the convention center and the 'hush money' paid to Gaylord. However I think we also need to look at the value of these teams not only in bringing in sales tax dollars but in making Nashville a destination city. The fact that many of the people attending these games are not from Davidson County is a plus, not a negative. All the services that government should provide, such as schools and roads, are used by these people somewhere else but they are spending their money here.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What made nashville a destination city was the music and opryland and we killed that.These idiots have no imagination.If I were the Mayor I would offer that property that they are planning on giveing away and spending millions on next to the stadium to DOLLY to build a park with property taxes assessed for only the time that the park was open. (or a percentage of the take in lieu of property taxes)Not the best place but they already gave away everything else.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Do the city powers dare to put these taxing proposals to referendum, as they did for the Titans?Titans, 59% YES, to allocate 144M for the Stadium.Preds, 13%? (maybe...)Schermerhorn, <1%?

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

By: julesy on 11/12/07 Davidson County spends close to $10,000 per student on education. With the recent bad report card on Davidson County schools, until we overhaul the educational system in Davidson County we don't need to give them any more money. **********************************Exactly, we could actually save money (50% or more) by putting the kids in private schools and get better results.We have to STOP flushing money down the toilet we call government schools. The crap is not going down, 50% of the time. (drop out rate)

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I don't get this article. It is presented in the "News" part of the paper, but it's clearly an editorial. Trying to be both, it fails at both. Its opinion, as ActCit pointed out, is weak, and by being so opinionated, it doesn't report actual news about Nashville's government & sports & culture & greenery & arts, &c. If only Lawson had written an expansive story examining the unique place of professional sports in Nashville & in other mid-size American cities.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hockey is a sport like wrestling is.Limited appeal The attendence proves that.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Opryland Theme Park was a great area attraction, but the venture was privately held by M. Gaylord, who pulled the plug for a shopping mall. Awful, terrible decision; but that's bottom-line protocol for a corporation, to make every cent it can with as little risk as possible. As a community, the Theme Park served us better.Will keeping the Preds serve us in the future? Probably so, given the taxes pulled in to downtown business (and the ticket revenue from Serpas' predators.) The city can't afford another stupid mistake, as they made when they drove Nascar out of town in the '80's.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

OH Please you are compareing NASCAR to the PREDS.50% of the NHL are losing money NASCAR could retire the national debt if they autioned off their dates or added some.Personally speaking I think they should have 2 circuits to expand. A short track one and a super speedway. I am suprised they haven't done it already.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

When Nascar was forced out of town, they weren't all that. Given a few more years, the error seems glaring, now.Will Ice Hockey ever fly in warm-weather country? Can't say.Will NASCAR survive the coming fuel crunch, and the coming backlash against excessive consumption? That's a good question. When we're all forced into 4-cylinders at best, we might look back to the era of vintage motor car racing as the best example of our thoughtless excess. Let's hope that's far off...;D

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If the dems let us harvest the oil we have it wouldn't be such an urgent problem.Instead they let the Chinese and Mexico get it to weaken us even more.Their anti-American socialists head is out of the hole trying to inflict the fatal bite.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf,Pretty much threw your true colors out there on the last one. Just so you are up to speed on everyting the new convention center as well as the gaylord money is coming directly from taxes on hotel/motel rooms and none of it is scheduled to be paid by Davidson County taxpayers. Also you should probably take a Civics class so you better understand how government works. the short version is citizens pay taxes, citizens vote on representation and expect those who represent them to vote and allot expenditures based upon their wishes. If you don't like democracy, you are so out of luck. Sorry it isn't going your way...

By: chakracon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Anything male dominated is stupid and not worthwhile.... Look at the mess your self serving a**es have gotten US into.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

producer2 you may be that stupid but don't expect others to be. If those taxes didn't go there they would go to the city/state which we will have to make up. Indirect money still costs us the same as direct money.The Sounds tried that remember?

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Producer2, you are a bright. Don't think that your posts are any different than mine. Your mind set is that government should pay for anything that YOU think is an asset to yourself. I on the other hand can afford any pleasure I so desire. So my bias is to keep as much of my money as possible. Anything that even looks like socialism is my arch-enemy. Government spending is usually aways funded mostly be the haves. You are however an intelligent liberal campaigner.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf,Please keep up, the State and City governments passed legislation a few months ago calling for additional taxes to be collected on all hotel/motel rooms being utilized in Davidson County. This tax increase ispaid for by tourists who visit the city and rent hotel rooms and rental cars. What part of this do you not understand?Frank,Voted Republican almost 90% of the time since I was eligible. Civics was offered in high school, it works the same way for both parties. We are a democratic society, you have the ability to vote. If your side is not on the winning side of your argument, then that is the way it goes. My wife however will be thrilled that you think my ideals are liberal, :)

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It won't be enough and the tourists aren't that stupid.This town has no draw anymore.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

For once idgaf you are so right. the town had a much better draw when it was nothing but adult shops and crime ridden streets in Lower Broad. Now that is a draw! What were they thinking trying to put symphony halls and restaurants and sports facilities, and condos, and grocery stores, and libraries,and museums, and all that stuff down there? It ruined everything...

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

So they moved the crime out to other sections of the city.Can you say opryland boys and girls?Whats with this town haveing penis enevy instead of enjoying the nice town it was?Why didn't you stay where you came from if you want to make this town over in its image?We went from a nice decent sizw town to a crime ridden cesspool with crooked government.

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf you are the only person who thinks this town has not improved in the past ten years. The Titans, Predators, Symphony Center, Country Music Hall of Fame are all incredible for Nashville. If you don't like Nashville so much, move to Hendersonville or Gallatin. Also, in your previous post, you said that the "Team" of local investors is a terrible way to manage our Predators. Well I can guarantee you that you were very pessimistic when "Craig Leipold" was its sole owner. You probably stated that one man wasn't enough and a group of investors would be better.PRODUCER2, TITAN1--- GREAT POSTS! I CAN'T AGREE WITH YOU MORE!!!

By: millenboy on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Why don't the new Predator buyers just give the city a minority ownership stake. If I(we) the taxpayers are going to pony up millions I want to own something. Then when the Predators are sold again in a few years the taxpayers can cash in like everyone else.