THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
Feeling vindication is a doubled edged sword. On one hand, it is easy to say "I told you so," but on the other hand, you don't want innocent people to be hurt because a group of politicians thought they knew better even though you knew they were in over their heads when they made a bad economic choice. In Chester, Pennsylvania, a decision to enter the "Major Leagues" by a group of politicians who approved the funding of a soccer "stadium-village" in 2008 has gone sour.
The soccer facility would be part of a $414 million project funded by state, county and Chester taxpayers money that was designed to revitalize the city that was once a vibrant shipping port and housed a piece of the auto industry.
Last week, Chester elected officials finally conceded that the project has not worked out. The stadium is there with little development just like the Harrison, New Jersey soccer stadium fiasco. Chester, Harrison and Ramapo, New York residents will be paying for decades the debt on ill-conceived stadium projects to name just three of the dozens of failures around the United States. Chester politicians are now scrambling to find funding to pay down the debt on the stadium and have proposed new measures that include a seat tax on entertainment and raising parking fees at the facility.
Naturally the owners of the Philadelphia Union soccer team are not thrilled by the proposals.
In 2008, I had an opportunity to tell students at Widener University in Chester along with elected officials who attended the talk about the pitfalls for municipalities of getting into the stadium and/or arena building business. The talk seemed to go over well with the students yet the politicians, though they did not tell me to me face that I was wrong, thought I was wrong.
It was the last time I spoke at Widener University.
The Delco Times newspaper reporter Amy Brisson wrote a piece on February 11, 2008 on my talk at Widener and presented my theory on stadium development and why it could be a public policy failure. She also quoted some politicians saying that I was wrong and that Chester would be on the road to economic recovery and prosperity.