Major League Soccer franchise DC United is going to get a new $300 million stadium in Washington's Buzzard Point area. Half the money will be spent by the team, half by the city.
Back in 2013, Forbes estimated that the DC United franchise is worth about $75 million.
Economic research has long cast doubt on the theory that publicly financed stadiums pay off in economic terms for the cities that build them. On the other hand, who wants to let a bunch of green-eyeshade losers ruin the fun of hosting professional sports? The psychic benefits of a championship, for example, far exceed mere dollars and cents that could be used to pick up garbage, teach young children, or house the poor.
The team says that if it has to keep playing in RFK Stadium which, though functional, lacks the snazzy money-making features of a more modern stadium, it'll have to decamp for elsewhere. And while the departure of a soccer team might not be a huge economic blow to the city, it might be a psychic one.
But actually spending $150 million to subsidize a franchise whose (pre-subsidy) value is only $75 million takes things to a bit of an extreme. If you grant the premise that the subjective joys of Major League Soccer are worth $150 million to the District's taxpayers, then surely the reasonable thing to do would be to buy the team and capture the financial upside not buy the team a stadium and just hope for speculative economic benefits to materialize down the road.