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.
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.