Are sports fans done funding sports stadiums? Dallas will be a litmus test.

Ron Kirk knew going in what the lifespan would be for a replacement for Reunion Arena.

“Thirty years,” he said.

Kirk was the foremost political figure to lead the American Airlines Center project from its conception to construction. The AAC cost $420 million to build, and it opened in October of 2001.

Both the Mavericks and Stars will soon play in the 2024 NBA playoffs and 2024 NHL playoffs, and we are likely in the twilight of the AAC as the home to both. That’s insane.

No one in any rational state who builds a house, or even an office space, thinks before they sign the necessary 43 million documents required for construction, says, “Thirty years and she’s done.”

“That’s the reality of modern sports,” said Kirk, the former Dallas mayor, in a recent interview. “You build a building and when it’s life span is over, you build a new one. That’s what these owners want.”

And nearly all of us keep giving it to them. Unless you’re Oakland. San Diego. And now Kansas City. Northern Virginia. Probably Chicago, too.

Could we finally be entering an era of sports where tax payers all over the country vote “NO” to approving these seemingly benign 0.00000003 tax increases to fund new stadiums and arenas? Go with a hard maybe.

It’s trending that way, but we still need more data.

Are K.C., Oakland and Virginia the new trend for sports stadiums?

This week, voters in Jackson County, Mo., trounced a ballot measure that would have given both the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs hundreds of millions. It was a 40-year tax increase to essentially fund a new stadium for the Royals in downtown K.C., and would have provided money to upgrade Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs.

Both teams play in venues that are 50-plus-years old. By today’s standards, they’re in the Roman Coliseum.

It’s hard to envision a scenario where the teams leave K.C. It’s equally hard to envision a scenario, after that ballot measure that was rejected, K.C. gives teams that act as if they are essentials to the city whatever they want.

This comes after the city of Oakland could not come to an agreement with the A’s baseball team on a new stadium; the A’s have announced it will leave Oakland after this season and play in Sacramento from 2025 to ‘27; the plan is to relocate to Las Vegas in ‘28, but the details on a new venue there are sketchy.

Last year, the Washington Wizards of the NBA and Capitals of the NHL announced plans to relocate from the Capital Center in Washington D.C. to a proposed new location in nearby Alexandria, Va.

In March, Alexandria city leaders announced the plan for a proposed $2 billion sports and entertainment complex for the two teams was dead. Taxpayers in Virginia would have paid $1.5 billion in bonds.

Instead, the Caps/Wizards will remain at their venue that opened in 1997.

After years of fighting between the city of San Diego and the Chargers over the proposed financing of a new stadium, the ownership gave up and moved the team to Los Angeles, in 2017.

In Chicago, both the Bears and White Sox seek public funds to build new stadiums in a city that is known for its stunning views of Lake Michigan as it is its stunning debt, which is the second-highest of any major town in the U.S.

North Texas as a test case for new sports stadiums

Any proposal for a new home of the Stars and Mavericks should serve as a litmus test where America sits with its tolerance to subsidize venues for teams that take a disproportionate share of the revenue. As the valuation of sports franchises continues to shatter logic, perhaps citizens will have a hard time justifying giving them more money.

Historically, Texans never say NO to new sports stadiums. From Houston to Austin, San Antonio to Dallas and over to Fort Worth, all of Texas’ major cities feature venues that received significant public financing. If we say NO, every major sports league in North America has a problem.

When Mark Cuban was the primary owner of the Mavericks, he openly discussed the future of a new venue, after the team’s lease with the AAC expires in 2031. The lease is so prohibitive that an early departure isn’t worth it. New ownership has said it intends to honor the lease.

The building has aged well enough, but there were flaws that team officials from the Stars and Mavs complained about the moment it opened. The biggest complaint was that then Mavs owner Ross Perot Jr. put a premium on design, rather than allow for more space dedicated to concession sales; where real money is generated.

Even though Cuban sold the majority stake in the Mavs to the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) last year, 2031 remains in play as the team’s exit from the AAC. The construction of a new facility will likely hinge on when Texas legalizes gambling.

Whenever that passes it will potentially allow Las Vegas Sands Corp. to build a resort-casino with an arena as the Mavericks serving as the primary tenant. The Dallas Business Journal has reported that LVS already owns 259 acres in Irving near Highway 114 and Loop 12, which includes the site where Texas Stadium was once located.

After the Cowboys left Texas Stadium, in 2009, the city of Irving considered a variety of proposals to re-purpose the venue. One of those proposals, complete with artist renderings, was a hotel/casino. That was at a time when this country’s relationship with gambling was reserved for only a few places.

The stadium was demolished in April of 2010, and any talk of a casino at the old place was thrown into the dumpster along with everything else.

When, not if, LVS plans to build this, will it ask the citizens of Irving and Dallas County to fork over some money? Yes. Will those people vote “Yes” is no longer a given.

Justifying the expense of another stadium

Since Texas Stadium was imploded, our growing area has opened Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Globe Life Field in Arlington and the Ford Center in Frisco. All three were partly publicly financed.

This is part of a trend that began around 1970 when cities all over the U.S. started to subsidize the construction of venues that only last about 30 to 35 years. Locally, Texas Stadium lasted 38 years. Reunion Arena made it 21 years. The Ballpark in Arlington, now Choctaw Stadium, was the home for the Rangers from 1994 to 2019.

In other places, the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis made it from 1984 to 2007; Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was in use from 1965 to 1996; the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan, home of the Detroit Pistons, was open from 1998 to 2017.

This is standard sports’ stadium timeline all over North America, where everything is built to be thrown away.

The irony is our most celebrated venues are the old ones; L.A..’s Rose Bowl (1922), Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914), Boston’s Fenway Park (1912), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1909). Those are ancient ruins compared to our other favorites, such as Dodgers Stadium (1955), Lambeau Field (1957), Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (1955).

You either play, and operate, the glorified museum-stadium, which is a tourist attraction, or you “need” the new one complete with an assortment of new-age amenities.

“The argument is always you never need to build it; we battled that when we did it here,” Kirk said. “We put in $125 million, and there’s been over $3 billion in private investments around (the AAC). It worked spectacularly.”

Before the construction of the AAC, the area was an industrial hazard site. Literally. Since the building went up, it’s morphed into a mixed-use site for offices, residential space in the form of condos, and retail space with bars and restaurants.

“What drove a lot of energy then, in the ‘90s and not just in Dallas, all of the urban areas had been hallowed out by families fleeing and businesses going to the suburbs,” Kirk said. “The one thing that brought people back into the urban areas were arts, culture, sports, museums, and concerts.

“It’s a performing arts building; that’s what you need to think of it as.”

In the late ‘90s, Dallas tax payers approved a 2 percent hotel tax and 5 percent car rental tax to help cover their end of the $125 million to build the arena. The tourism tax has typically been the easiest way to lure voters to approve these measures; they don’t see the cost on their bill.

The city said the revenue from this vote far exceeded expectations, and it retired the debt far ahead of schedule. Arlington said the same thing with AT&T Stadium and the Ballpark in Arlington.

This is how franchises, and leagues, sell these proposals to cities all over the U.S.

A smart economist can find an assortment of pretty numbers to justify a “YES” vote just as easily as a “NO.”

Ultimately, the decision-maker is not an economist but a voter. A voter who for decades has said yes to new stadiums and arenas. We might be coming to an end of that era.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the Dallas Mavericks will find out for themselves.