Tom Took On Cubs At 2013 Bughouse Square Debate

Lester+TomI was in the featured debate at the 2013 Bughouse Square Debate on Saturday, July 27 in front of the Newberry Library. The topic was “Should The City Subsidize The Cubs To Keep Them In Chicago?” My position was “NO WAY, NO HOW” side. On the other side was Lester Munson, reporter for ESPN.  The event was moderated by Chicago’s great natural resource, Rick Kogan.

Listen to the debate and the Q&A session (34 minutes).

Here are my notes for the debate. Use them if you have to argue against subsidizing sports facilities or other private enterprise using public dollars…


Who needs public money in Chicago?

Cubs 2012 revenue = $274 million.

Bears 2007 = $226 million

Bulls 2012 = $162 million

Total = $662 million for one year

Money we spent on their stadiums:

Bears = $443 million (owned by Chicago Park District)

Bulls = $35 million (Owned by Wertz and company)

White Sox = $247 million (Owned by Illinois Sports Facility Authority – 2011 paid $7 million upgrade infrastructure, build & equip a bar yet gets no $ from it)

Total = $725 million plus

From 1990 to 2002 $15.6 billion of state and local tax $ spent on 73 stadiums and arenas. $8 billion for the NFL.

How much does it cost to attend? Using The 2012 Fan Cost Index – 2 adults, 2 kids, parking, food, programs, 2 caps

Bears = $609 – #3 out of 32 teams

Bulls = $427 – #3 out of 33 teams

Cubs = $298 – # 3 out of 31 teams

Sox = $210 – #12

Chicago Board of Education is cutting $99 million from 162 schools after closing 50 public schools.

Chicago has closed public health clinics, cut mass transit service, shuttered public housing and cut back programs in the parks and raised fees for park services.

How much do major league players make?

NBA = $4,658,466 (2008, 463 players)

MLB = $3,131,041 (2008, 858 players)

NFL = $1,947,402 (2008, 1,861 players)

The average salary for a public school teacher in the Chicago metro area is $56,720 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011.

How many people attended Chicago sports in 2012? (

Cubs = 2,882,756

Sox = 1,965,955

Bears = 498,633

Bulls = 731,326

Blackhawks = 522,619

Total = 6,601,289

How many people attended Chicago arts and cultural organizations?

12 major museums = 7,614,561 (Crain’s 2011)
250 theaters = 5,000,000 (League of Chicago Theaters)

Total = 12,614,561 (excludes art galleries, dance and nonprofit music)

DePaul 2013 revenue = $733,952,889

2013 enrollment = 24,531 – Tuition = $33,390 – Largest Catholic university in USA
“Attendance at Blue Demons home games in suburban Rosemont has averaged around 2,900 over the past three years, according to Allstate Arena ticket records obtained by Crain’s.”

Larger issue of corporate welfare, unchecked, unchallenged.

IL gave $1.16 billion in tax credits to major companies 2012

IL  tax gifts

 Don’t forget the Tax Increment Financing Program give-aways. Here are a few.

  • Hyatt Hotel Hyde Park -$5,200,000
  • K-Mart -$3,700,000
  • Quaker Oats -$13,000,000
  • Union Station Health Club -$3,200,000
  • Block 37 developers -$12,000,000
  • Chicago Symphony -$2,500,000
  • Sears -$13,700,000
  • United Airlines -$32,000,000
  • Rush Medical Center -$75,000,000
  • Loyola University -$20,400,000
  • Sara Lee -$5,000,000
  • Wrigley -$15,000,000
  • Home Depot -$8,000,000
  • Keebler – $2,000,000
  • Jewel/Osco – $9,600,000
  • Target -$9,900,000
  • UPS – $11,300,000
  • Wilson Yard developer -$54,200,000
  • Grossinger Auto – $8,500,000

“Mega-Events: The effect of the world’s biggest sporting events on local, regional, and national economies” Prof. Victor Matheson, Economics Dept, College of Holy Cross, 2006 – conclusion:

“The most important piece of advice that a local government can take regarding mega-events, however, is simply to view with caution any economic impact estimates provided by entities with a incentive to provide inflated benefit figures. While most sports boosters claim that mega-events provide host cites with large economic returns, these same boosters present these figures as justification for receiving substantial public subsidies for hosting the games. The vast majority of independent academic studies of mega-events show the benefits to be a fraction of those claimed by event organizers.”

“Assessing the infrastructure impact of mega-events in emerging economies”

Victor A. Matheson, September 2012

“It is undeniable that mega-events result in significant tourism expenditures, but in the vast majority of cases the observed increases in economic activity fall well short of the economic impact predicted by event organizers. Focusing just on the Olympics and World Cup, Table 3 shows commissioned ex ante economic impact studies for various Olympics and World Cups. Table 4 shows ex post estimates of economic impact performed by economists not associated with the events for various Olympics and World Cups examining actual economic data before, during, and after the events. In the majority of cases, independent economists find little or no direct economic impact of mega-events on host economies.”

“If You Build It, the Jobs Won’t Come”  – Mark Yost  – Wall Street Journal – July 17, 2008

“Yes, stadiums do create high-paying construction jobs for a year or two. But the vast majority of long-term employment is low-wage concession jobs. A Congressional Research Service study of the Baltimore Ravens stadium found that each job created cost the state $127,000. By comparison, Maryland’s Sunny Day Fund created jobs for about $6,000 each.”

Oh, it’s much worse.

As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price

New York Times –  Louise Story – December 1, 2012

“A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.

The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.”

George Papa Halas famously said “Find out what the other team wants to do. Then take it away from them.”

We know what greedy professional sports and greedy corporations wants from us – tens and hundreds of millions of our tax dollars. Let’s take THAT away from them!


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