The NFL lockout: bad news for fans, good news for cash-strapped municipalities.
Take Oakland, for instance. In today's New York Times, Ian Stewart examines the "exceptionally one-sided stadium deal" the city gave the franchise when they moved there Los Angeles in 1995. It is indeed one-sided--the team pays $525,000 a season to rent the Oakland Alameda Coloseum and cuts the county in on "some revenue through concession sales and parking receipts." Hardly enough to cover the $5 million the county says it spends each year "setting up for the team" (most of which is devoted to reconfiguring the field for football, since the A's also use the facility) and annual $20 million payments on the bond debt from the city's $200 million renovation of the facility in 1996. "Because it costs us so much to put on the games, this is not going to be much of a loss for us,” Deena McClain, interim director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, admitted to Stewart. “It’s probably a net gain.”
Economists caution that a lockout will still deprive cities of the "indirect revenue" NFL games bring to local merchants, but that hardly applies to the Raiders. Over the past two seasons, 14 of the team's 16 home games were blacked out on local television because the stadium didn't sell out.
Other cities that won't be upset if there's no football in 2011:
Hamilton County took out a $559 million bond issue in 2000 to pay for a new stadium for the Bengals. They're still paying that off, and in the interim also built a new stadium for the Reds. The Cincinnati Courier-Journal reports the county has already projected a "$16 million stadium-fund shortfall in 2011."
Erie County taxpayers pay the Bills $4 million in subsidies every year to cover "game-day expenses linked to each home game." They also operate transportation to and from the stadium, a losing proposition at one of the NFL's smallest venues (they lost $25,000 on buses to Ralph Wilson Stadium last year). In the event of a lockout, the Buffalo News reports the city will have to pay only $2.5 million of that figure to maintain the stadium, with the rest going back into the municipal budget for a city that has "cut support to libraries and cultural agencies to make ends meet."
Since opening two years ago the stadium has emerged as an in-demand venue for a variety of events, but the Cowboys only pay $500,000 a season to use it. Meanwhile, city took on $308 million in debt to contribute to assist in the construction of Cowboys Stadium. While the team sells out,
Dallas Arlington mayor Robert Cluck recently downplayed the impact the Cowboys' absence would have on the city's ability to service its debt. "Financially, I don't have much concern [about the lockout]" he told the Dallas News.