Maybe Losing That Stadium Wasn’t A Bad Thing…

A FrontBurnervian recently forwarded me a Wall Street Journal column which, I think, effectively questions the notion of taxpayer-funded stadiums becoming money makers for cities. I know that many of you think not having the Cowboys playing in downtown Dallas might have driven the stake through the heart of our city, but maybe the WSJ piece can offer you some consolation. Then again, it might inspire you to burn an effigy of me, and that’s all right, too.


  • ben

    Doesn’t bother me a bit we lost it. I can’t afford a ticket anyway. Seems like a money maker for Jerry Jones more than anyone else.

  • PR

    If the author had done some more research (or perhaps he left it out because he had already written his headline) he would have found that the AAC has been a great addition to Dallas. Most of the new construction in and around downtown is near the AAC — and area that was once nothing more than a polluted brownfield.

    Regarding the Cowboys new stadium, Arlington got a heck of a deal. They are only paying $325 million of a $1.2 billion stadium — that’s only 27%.

    In return, they are getting a Super Bowl, an NBA All Star game, the Cotton Bowl Classic which now will most certainly become a BCS game — this has all been locked down before the place is even finished. And, this is beyond the Cowboy games, college games and concerts they will get every year.

    I agree that other cities may not receive the great economic benefit they anticipated, but none of them have hosted the mega-events that are already planned for Arlington’s new stadium.

    Oh, did I mention the City of Arlington also gets paid rent, a portion of naming rights, and $15 million for sports for kids as part of the stadium deal.

  • publicnewssense

    A big stadium replacing an economic hole in Dallas ia always better than a persistent economic hole. You can look at the areas around American Airlines Center for confirmation.
    What if the stadium had been built on the Oak Cliff side of the Trinity at the foot of the Big Pretty Bridge? Or anywhere else near or in downtown instead of out in the middle of the flatlands known only for a baseball team that can’t win, an amusement park that only makes news when something bad happens (economics, ride mishap) and a college basketball team that plays on the stage of a combination gym/theater.
    Beginning in 2009. it will be possible to go to a Dallas Cowboys game without even coming within 15 miles of the Dallas city limits.
    But, by golly, you taxpayers left behind can get a speeding ticket from a deputy constable in Dallas, have your car booted on a private parking lot, get your car towed by thugs, pour money into a school district that ain’t makin’ the grade and sit and watch other cities get the things your city should be getting.
    Sure downtown is looking livelier — the courts are downtown.
    So many people miss the point that it’s not just “gameday” that matters, it’s the consistent attention, the national/international TV pictures, the mere existence of something positive in your city that makes the difference.
    Dallas simply has had poor leadership without an understanding of sports/business links. Almost a prissy girl saying, “Oh, let’s teach those mean old boys a lesson and make them go play in somebody else’s yard.”
    Welcome to Dallas, you’re going to pay.

  • JB

    If the Stadium was going to be in Dallas, Jerry would still be having to deal with the quibbling City Council, regulations, and silly protests about something and they would have not even broken ground yet. I can’t blame him on going elsewhere. What is not in the article is the incalculable $$ that goes with the free PR every time there is an event at the new stadium. Imagine at every commercial break, a pan of the camera slowly up from the stadium to the Dallas skyline. and… oh I just read publicnewssense… yea I pretty much agree.

  • Richard

    Where can I pick up a Dave Moore effigy? While we’re on the subject, do they have any Eric Celestes?

  • KR

    After the city turned down the deal for the stadium south of Downtown on Industrial they approached Jerry with an similar economic deal that would put the stadium in Fair Park. Jones immediately turned that deal down worried that his sponsors would not come out to Fair Park and the surrounding area. What he didn’t factor is how a billion dollar investment would have been a win win situation for the City of Dallas, Fair Park and the Cowboys. Houston was able to get Reliant Stadium approved because the Houston Rodeo sells it out for 21 days. Add the 10 football games and one can see how different the economics are for Houston and Dallas. The Texans in reality are the minority tenant.

  • PR


    That is ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. The Jones family spent a lot of money negotiating with Dallas COUNTY (not the city) and even more money in pre-planning for a stadium in Fair Park. The fact is our Dallas County government did not move quickly enough on the negotiations (6 months!) and Mayor Cluck of Arlington and Tom Vandergriff (same guy who brought Six Flags, the Texas Rangers and GM to Arlington) swept in, began serious negotiations and got ‘er done. It had nothing to do with his sponsors not wanting to be in Fair Park.

    You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT about the win win situation it would have been for the Fair Park area if the deal could have been reached.

  • Dave Thomas

    I’ll repeat this until people understand it: Jerry Jones NEVER intended to build that stadium in Dallas or Fair Park. We didn’t lose it. We were never really offered it. Jones made it impossible for either the city or county of Dallas to do a deal and he knew it.

    That said, this article is right – but is not about Dallas or Arlington. Arlington is not footing the entire bill for the stadium. Dallas did not foot the entire bill for the AAC. I am not sure either investment will ultimately “pay off” for the cities. It’s always hard to measure such things. The article points out that Pittsburgh, Baltimore, etc. paid for the whole thing. What they didn’t get in return was private investment around the stadiums. The crummy areas of town did not improve. The tax burden increased and people left town.

    Our tax burden is far less than what people in those cities face. We don’t have a city income tax. We don’t have some of the commuter taxes they do. We don’t have a state income tax.

    To pay for the AAC, Dallas put the tax burden on people staying in hotels and hiring taxis. That doesn’t do much for tourism, but doesn’t make people want to sell their homes and move either.

    Arlington is not a member of DART and had an extra half a cent of sales tax under the state cap they could raise to pay for the Cowboys stadium. It raises the tax burden in Arlington to essentially what everyone else in the area pays.

    Clearly the construction around the AAC would seem to indicate that Dallas is benefitting from the arena. Is it enough to make the use of tax money worthwhile? Someone with far more data than me will have to sort that out.

    Arlington had hoped to have a similar amount of development around the Ballpark in Arlington when it was built 15 years ago. That hasn’t happened and it’s hard to see that the stadium itself has paid off for the city. Maybe the addition of the Cowboys will finally spur the growth they want. Maybe that “Glory Park” project will happen and lots of tax revenue will flow to the city from it. It’s hard to see how that’s going to happen with the current credit market. Maybe things will get better. Maybe having the Cowboys there will pay off. Right now, that’s an open question. I guess if I lived in Arlington I’d just be glad some of the crummy businesses and houses they bulldozed for the stadium are gone.

  • publicnewssense

    Dave, Dave, Dave….A smart city doesn’t wait for someone to come make an offer. A smart city goes and makes Jerry an offer he can’t refuse.
    And there is a big difference between putting a ballpark in Dallas and putting a ballpark in a wallowed out spot in a largely insignificant bedroom community built up around a maybe it’s here/maybe it’s gone Chevy plant.
    Frankly, when you see that stadium in Arlington, think of it as a monument to the racism that continues to curse Dallas.
    Geeeeezus, is there not one soul with vision in this town?

  • Jackson

    I’d like to augment the comment from Dave Thomas: Jerry Jones NEVER intended to put the stadium at Fair Park.

    Like any good businessman, he played the various suitors off each other. From a business standpoint, it would have been foolish to signal to Irving, Arlington, or any other entity that he had a preference. In truth, he always knew he wanted lots of breathing room around his new palace, and he always knew the built-up nature of inner Dallas was less than ideal. He was smart to engage in an extended dance over it; it only whetted the appetite of others, which was his goal all along.

    One often reads comments on the DMN sports blog trashing Laura Miller for “losing” the Cowboys to Arlington. It’s simply not true. What is true is that she was philosophically opposed to public monies funding sports facilities, including the AAC. In the broad scheme of things, history may well show the AAC to be a good thing and a catalyst for other tax revenue-generating development (once the current economic meltdown rides on thru the system). I happen to think so, and I happen to think Laura was wrong about that one.

    However, I certainly don’t begrudge her heartfelt belief that it’s wrong for municipalities to fork over hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to fat cat owners of professional sports teams. She comes by that belief fairly, just as it’s fair to disagree with her.

    But again: The “Cowboys back in Fair Park” mantra sung by many was always destined to be a non-starter.

  • John M

    Several of you keep mentioning American Airlines Center as good example, have you guys actually been to Victory? The place is a ghost town. Granted it looks better than the old power plant but its completely devoid of people and businesses are failing in it left and right.

  • publicnewssense

    Well, heck, John M., let’s plow it under and quit investing in it. The Stars can play at the Galleria and the Mavs can go out to Arlington and play on the stage at Texas Hall.
    And the hotels can be imploded! And the apartments! Yep…just plow it under.

  • Bob

    The comparables to JerryWorld are not the AAC, but Texas Stadium and the Ballpark. How much development did Texas Stadium induce? Nada, zip, zilch, zero. The Ballpark? After you discount the development attributable to Six Flags/Hurricane Harbor, not much more. Fact is, JerryWorld is a tribute to the ability of Jerry Jones to pick the pockets of the taxpayers of Arlington and the ticket buyers of his scheduled events. The unstated costs to the City of Arlington will exceed their $325,000,000 gift to Jerry. In their bumbling, bungling way, the City of Dallas and the County of Dallas have saved us all millions of dollars. Thanks.

  • Dallasite

    @Dave Thomas:

    “I’ll repeat this until people understand it: Jerry Jones NEVER intended to build that stadium in Dallas or Fair Park. We didn’t lose it. We were never really offered it. Jones made it impossible for either the city or county of Dallas to do a deal and he knew it.”

    Jerry did want that stadium in Dallas. He spent tens of thousands of dollars on engineering to make sure the stadium would fit on the proposed tracts of land. He worked diligently to try and get the Mayor to pay attention to him. When she snubbed him he turned to the Dallas County government, and they snubbed him too. He didn’t even talk to other cities until it was obvious that he couldn’t get it done here.

    Over $700 million in economic development is either completed or is under development in the Victory development around AAC (this number was at $1 billion before the downturn and a couple of projects were tabled). The final number when the entire area is developed will be around $3 billion. I believe the cost to the City of Dallas was around $210 million, and that included cleaning up the unusable brownfield site. If not for the AAC, we would still have a vacant factory there. This was the best pure financial investment that the City of Dallas has ever made.

    When Coors field was built next to Downtown Denver, it was placed at the end of a rundown warehouse district known as lowdo (lower downtown). That area is one of the best in Denver now, and Coors field kicked it off.

    In the mid-90s Downtown Houston was, and still is, the scariest place I’d ever been (and I’ve traveled to some pretty scary third world nations). Downtown Houston is now far, far better than Downtown Dallas.

    It’s not just what Dallas would have gained, but look at what we’ve lost, and are going to lose. We lost the Cotton Bowl which has a $40-$70 million annual economic impact on Dallas. We are going to lose the TX/OU game, and that has a $30 million economic impact to our city. Those two event also provide massive tax revenues due to the inflated hotel taxes which most large cities have.

    Dallas lost. Dallas lost big time.

  • Dallasite

    Oh, and that $3 billion around the AAC is in private development money, not public. It doesn’t count the cost of the arena or the streets.

  • Informed Citizen

    For those of you quoting Reliant Stadium in Houston as the paneacea for downtown Houston, Reliant ISN’T in downtown Houston. The Houston Rodeo barely uses Reliant Stadium — they use Reliant CENTER which is another behemoth building next to it. The area around Reliant Stadium and Center is dismal (the Astrodome is also in that end of town). There are TWO other stadiums (stadia?) in downtown Houston: Toyota Center (basketball) and Minute Maid Field (baseball). These two stadiums bookend the Houston Convention Center and, arguably, have been part of the redevelopment in that corner of downtown Houston. But (and this will pain many of you…) the REAL catalysts of the re-emergence of that part of downtown have been a City-built convention center hotel (the Americas Hilton) AND a new urban park (Discovery Green). Without the hotel and the park, the stadiums would just be isolated grand buildings surrounded by empty parking lots.

    And BTW, the whole thing of publicly-financed stadiums being a mediocre investment is not a particularly new concept — there’s plenty of research from the first batch of publicly-financed sports palaces that failed to deliver on the promise of redevelopment, many of which are now seeing the wrecking ball (i.e., Miami Arena in downtown Miami).

  • Brent D.

    It would be interesting to see how many of you amateur-spit-ball-throwers have actually read the contract between JJ and the City of Arlington.

    The mantra of a public-private contract is “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable”. The public doesn’t have the resources or objective to take advantage of this type of partnership.

    Dallas won.

    Send your thanks to LM…in about 5 years.

  • Brandon

    Pittsburgh, Baltimore & Philadelphia. All three cities have lost citizens each decade since 1950. Dallas as gained every decade in it’s existence. This is not a proper comparison. The stadium would have thrived in Dallas because the city is thriving anyway. I don’t blame Jerry for not wanting to be in Fair Park…but we could have all pitched in together and made that place great again. Or, he could have waited a couple more years and been a big player in the Trinity Project that is now practically a pipe dream with an amazing fiber optic model.

  • adam

    Thank you Dr. Cluck.

  • Dallasite

    “For those of you quoting Reliant Stadium in Houston as the paneacea for downtown Houston, Reliant ISN’T in downtown Houston.”

    I was referring to Minute Maid Park in Downtown Houston. It kicked off the revitalization there.

  • James White

    I agree that the Cowboys were never coming to downtown Dallas. JerrysWorld required too much space and too little oversight.

    Baseball would be much better downtown. Cleveland, Denver, San Diego, have downtown baseball stadia and I’ve found it nice to have the option 81 times a year to leave work, take mass transit or walk, to a baseball game. I enjoy the Stars for the same reason.

    I disagree with the article’s position that infrastructure is inherently a bad proposal for poor economic times. WPA anyone?

  • Robert Dobalina

    Articles like this are good at analyzing the TANGIBLE economic costs and benefits of a new stadium. However, what they cannot quantify are the intangible benefits. In this case, even if you assume that putting the stadium in Dallas would have been a deal bad for the city financially, the intangible benefits (image/marketing, citizen morale, overall can-do attitude, city pride) would have far outweighed the costs.

  • KRM

    Good point, Robert. Dave, we may not have income taxes, but we have higher property taxes to compensate. Don’t be fooled, every municipality gets its cut of revenue, one way or another. Handoff to Dallas up the middle, they have a huge hole, they cross the 50, 40, 30…oooops, FUMBLE! Arlington recovers, and runs it back for a TOUCHDOWN. Arlington wins, Dallas citizens lose big.