OPPONENTS OF A football stadium at Camden Yards are having a field day agitating the public but they are using phony figures to make their case. Were they to state the true numbers, their argument would lose its appeal.
Here are some anti-stadium punch lines: "We need to use that $200 million for our schools!"
"This is the mother of all sweetheart deals. The football team gets all the profits and plays in the stadium rent free!"
"There are other ways to generate even more economic development at less cost."
It sounds good. It gets the anti-tax, anti-business juices flowing. But it's not true.
In this campaign of disinformation, the biggest lie is that this proposal involves $200 million in taxpayer dollars. A corollary is that the $200 million should be used instead for schools, the homeless, etc.
Bulletin: There's no pot of $200 million in tax dollars sitting there for a stadium, or other uses. In fact, state taxpayers won't get pinched at all from the Camden Yards stadium. An extra $24 million from the lottery will be needed as seed money for football construction. That's the extent of general fund contribution by the state -- $24 million, not $200 million.
The stadium will be financed through bonds and paid off at $6.2 million a year. Revenue generated by the Maryland Stadium Authority -- not tax dollars -- will cover the bond payments.
As for the "sweetheart" deal, it's the same package given the Orioles -- and virtually the same one offered by William Donald Schaefer when he was governor (though he seems to have had a memory lapse on that point). Yes, owner Art Modell will pay no rent, but he pays all operating costs and maintenance, which can be considerable. That's a better arrangement for the state than the Orioles' contract (they pay rent but no operating expenses), which is a money-loser.
It's a sweet deal all right -- for the taxpayer. For just $24 million in extra lottery proceeds, Maryland gets a $200 million football stadium, 400 to 1,400 new jobs and an economic boost for downtown Baltimore businesses.
On the other hand, if the football stadium is killed, the jobs and the economic benefits are lost. How do opponents plan to replace them? They are mum on that topic. And the total amount freed for new schools would be just $24 million -- enough for two new high schools.
The economics of this project are highly favorable. It means jobs and business stimulus. But you won't hear any of this from stadium foes. It would destroy their case.