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No ballpark, No Halladay

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

A lot of people are still angry about the public money that went to build the new Phillies and Eagles stadiums.  In his latest Center Square commentary, Chris Satullo argues that without those tax dollars, Roy Halladay would have pitched his no-hitters for another team.

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As I sit in this studio, the region basks in the glow of an extraordinary thing that happened Wednesday in South Philadelphia.

As 45,000 lungs sent forth an oceanic roar, as white towels formed a foaming sea, Roy Halladay of the Phillies became the second major leaguer ever to pitch a no-hit game in the post-season.

It was a memory fathers and sons will relive for a long time. It was a happy topic of conversation for the whole region the next day.

So, how much is that worth?

No, really, that’s not a rhetorical question.

You see, the economists have run the numbers once, twice, thrice – and they all agree.

The investment of public dollars in sports stadiums does not pay for itself in terms of tax revenue or economic benefit.

But economists have no way to fix the value of a moment like Wednesday – when millions of us shared a sense of drama, connection and, yes, even awe as we watched Halladay be as good at what he does as it is possible for a person to be.

It was thrilling.  And how many times, in a world full of hype and counterfeit, do you get to witness something authentically thrilling?

How do you value that?

Be clear about one thing: if the Phillies still played in the dreary Vet, if the city and state had not forked over millions to help build Citizens Bank Park, this team would not be in these playoffs, and Roy Halladay would play in some other city.  I don’t know much, but I do know that.

I also know that, in a perfect world, sports teams wouldn’t rake in public dollars while schools go wanting.

But don’t imagine that money not spent on athletic playpens simply flows to classrooms or health centers. No, these borrowed dollars would go to some other project of concrete and steel, so that construction workers and bond lawyers get fed.

Here’s something else. These days, 10 times as many young adults go to games at the Bank as went to the Vet.  This might subtly benefit the regional economy over the long haul. With every Utley homer, every Yard’s beer, the ballpark cements a sense of connection between these smart young people and the city. For a region where the brain drain has long been a key problem, that may be no small thing.


  • Chris Randolph says:

    How generous of you to decide that two pro sports teams that wouldn’t even allow the city nor the state to view their books should get hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds.

    As I testified at the corrupt Philadelphia City Council public hearing, it was unlawful according to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for any of these corporate welfare funds to have been transferred to the teams.

    “The credit of the Commonwealth shall not be pledged or loaned to any individual, company, corporation or association nor shall the Commonwealth become a joint owner or stockholder in any company, corporation or association.”

    Following the law instead of providing corporate welfare – how much is THAT worth?

    You don’t even seem to know much about baseball. Pitchers much prefer pitching in a larger stadium where it’s harder to knock one out. Much of the talk surrounding the new ballpark when it opened was how it might scare pitching talent away from Philadelphia. Halladay is here despite the stadium, not because of it.

  • Johanna says:

    I was going to say the same thing about mothers and daughters, but Leann beat me too it!

    Get with the times, Satullo!

  • John says:

    Hi. Glad you are such a faithful Phillies fan. I am not, in fact, I couldn’t care less about the Phillies or any other pro sports team, here or anywhere else. That said, you probably know where I am going – I don’t see why any of my tax dollars should go toward supporting pro sports teams. In reality, it probably wouldn’t bother me that much, except that pro sports is a business, a very profitable business, with employees that make million dollar salaries, a business that has priced itself out of most middle class families’ reach.

    A profitable business should not be asking for public funds; a profitabloe business should not use the feelings of its fans to extort money from a city that could better spend the money elsewhere. Or…maybe that’s capitalism at work, use what ever leverage you have to increase you profits.

  • Leann says:

    Hi! Whenever I hear Chris Satullo’s voice on the radio, I perk up. I love his insightful, honest, straightforward and smart pieces. The resonation usually runs deep. My 14 year old daughter and I were in the kitchen this morning listening when this piece came on. She wanted to point out that it is not just fathers and daughters but also mothers and daughters!! We were talking of it for days to come too!! Thanks for your wonderful work! I will look forward to many more interesting gender inclusive articles to come!

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