In May, the city council of Arlington, TX signed off on a $1 billion deal that would allow the Texas Rangers to build a new stadium that includes a retractable roof. It was unexpected, since the Rangers' current stadium, Globe Life Park, is only 22 years old and not in bad shape.
Regardless of whether the Rangers need the stadium or not, it's happening. The agreement was touted as a 50-50 cost split between the Rangers and the city of Arlington, with each party ponying up $500 million. But according to WFAA-TV, Dallas' ABC affiliate, that's not actually true at all. They dug into the "Master Agreement," approved by the city council, and found some disturbing things.
The agreement asks voters to approve the extension of hotel and car rental taxes, as well as a half-cent sales tax. That, on its face, is normal. That's what cities do to raise their portion of the revenue to build the stadium. Those particular Arlington taxes helped pay for AT&T Stadium, which is where the Dallas Cowboys play.
But that's where things stop being normal (sadly, taxpayers funding stadiums for billionaires is considered normal) and start getting shady and potentially damaging to the city. WFAA-TV looked closely at the agreement and found something unusual.
Tucked in the agreement is a clause called the "admissions and parking tax" that allows for a 10 percent surcharge on event tickets and up to $3 additional surcharge on parking. State law allows cities to collect and use the taxes to build their stadiums. Arlington’s agreement, however, allows the Rangers to use the admissions and parking tax revenues to help pay their half of the construction costs.
For some reason, instead of using it themselves, Arlington is letting the Rangers use that admissions and parking tax to help pay for their portion of the stadium. They're essentially giving money to the Rangers instead of making them use the money they already have and the money they make every single day to pay for it.
This isn't chump change, either. WFAA-TV reported that the admissions and parking tax could amount to $10 million in revenue a year. Over the 30-year life of the stadium, that's $300 million that the Rangers can use to pay for their part of the deal. So that 50-50 split isn't really 50-50 at all, it just looks like one. In reality, with the city of Arlington giving the Rangers $300 million over 30 years, the city is contributing $800 million and the Rangers would contribute $200 million.
So, in short: the Rangers don't need a new stadium, but they want one, and they've somehow convinced the city of Arlington to not just "split" the cost with them, but give them even more money on top of it. An economist who spoke with WFAA-TV summed up this story well.
“It is one of the worst public projects anyone could imagine,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest College in Illinois.
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