“If every sports team in Chicago were to suddenly disappear, the impact on the Chicago economy would be a fraction of 1 percent, A baseball team has about the same impact on a community as a midsize department store.” (Michael Leeds, Temple University Sports Economist)
The elected leaders of Charlotte, NC should have listened to Dr. Leeds, but instead they were overcome by David Tepper, the owner of the Charlotte Panthers, who has a net worth of 12 billion dollars. He convinced Mayor Vi Lyles and the city council to spend tax dollars to help him be awarded the 30th Major League Soccer team franchise. Mayor Lyles and the Charlotte City Council agreed to help Tepper by promising to give $110 million for a soccer team. (Tepper is also being given tax dollars to help build a new practice facility for the Panthers in near-by Rock Hill, SC. Senator Lindsay Graham has promised about 20 million of federal funds to build the entrance and exit ramps of I-77 to the new complex.)
The Charlotte Observer in the editions of December 17 and 18 has printed much news of Mayor Lyles, Tepper, and soccer balls. Tepper is quoted as saying, “It’s going to be a new Charlotte. We’re the hot city.” Scott Fowler, Observer sportswriter, quotes Tepper as describing future soccer games at Bank of America Stadium as, “This is a little bit of a party for two hours. Charlotte loves a party. And we’re going to bring them [sic] a party.”
Once again a city is sucked into believing that a sports’ team will have great economic benefit. Yet, as Dr. Leeds knows, one of the few facts that economists agree on is that professional teams do not have much of an influence on local economies. Yet, men who are wealthy enough to buy a professional team continue to be given tax dollars to help their cause. And, Tepper’s cause, whatever it is, is aided by elected officials and the local media.
Like other cities of America, Charlotte faces problems: a high murder rate in 2019, a lack of affordable housing, poor mass transportation, issues surrounding educational equality, and more. So why would the civic leaders give a rich man so much money when it could help with the social issues facing the city?
It is wrongly believed that success of a ball team affects a city. While some 70 thousand or so fans may enjoy a game, that is a small percentage of a city’s population. Any fan base is of the franchised citizens of a community, but where is the larger number of the disenfranchised who suffer most from the problems of a city? The child who is taken on a Christmas shopping spree at a large box store by a professional athlete does not attend professional games, and his or her parents are too busy making ends meet to be concerned about a box score. Professional teams are designed for the franchised citizens of all cities, but the disenfranchised, if they want, are encouraged to come to the stadiums to work low-scale jobs so that the enfranchised will be comfortable and well-fed. For instance, the Observer reports that “more than 60 fans attended the announcement of Charlotte’s new Major League Soccer franchise.” That is a small percentage of Charlotte citizens.
Building things is popular and easy to support. Stadiums. Courts. High rises. But the value of things built is a poor investment when compared to creating a system that offers a sound education to all its citizens, a safe environment in which to live and work, and equal access for all of its citizens. By her action and that of the city council, Mayor Lyles has demonstrated that she and the council are more interested in things than the city’s disenfranchised citiz