Hey, I Can Like Ice Hockey But Still Hate Subsidies

Spend a few nights listening to the news on TV, and you will quickly discover the one of the bedrock logical fallacies of political discourse:

If it's good, the government should subsidize it.  If it's bad, the government should ban it.  If outcomes are in any way perceived by any group to be sub-optimal, then the government should regulate it.  Anyone who opposes these bans, subsidies, and regulations must therefore be a supporter of bad outcomes, hate poor people, want people to get sick and die, etc.

Just last night, I was watching the local news (something I almost never do) and saw a story of one of those kids' bouncy houses that blew out of someone's backyard into a road.  There was a girl inside who was scared but unhurt  (after all, she was surrounded on six sides by giant airbags).   Of course the conclusion of the story was a call for more government regulation of tie downs for private backyard bouncy houses.  And those of us who think it's absurd for the government to micro-regulate such things, particularly after a single freak accident when no one was hurt -- we just want to see children die, of course.

Which brings me to this little gem in a local blog, which reflects a feeling held by many area sports fans.  Remember that I have supported the Goldwater Institute in their opposition to the city of Glendale giving a rich guy $200 million to buy our NHL ice hockey team and keep it here.    My (and I presume Goldwater's) motivation has been opposition to a huge government subsidy that equates to nearly $1000 for every man, woman, and child in Glendale.  This subsidy appears illegal under the Arizona Constitution.  But that is not how political discourse works.  We are not defending the Constitution, we just hate hockey (emphasis added)

If you believe Canadian newspapers, tonight's game against the Detroit Red Wings will be the Phoenix Coyotes last game in the desert.

Canadians like hockey. Judging by attendance at Coyotes games, Phoenicians don't (at least not enough to drive to west side), which is why Canadians are so optimistic that their beloved Winnipeg Jets will be returning to our overly polite neighbors to the north.

The Coyotes ended the season with the second worst attendance in the NHL. That, coupled with the Goldwater Institute's crusade to drive the team out of the Valley, is not helping the city of Glendale's attempt to keep the team.

A few facts to remember:

  • As the article states, local residents have already voted with their feet, since the team has nearly the lowest attendance in the league despite going to the playoffs both last year and this year.  They have trouble selling out playoff games.
  • The team has lost money every year it has been here.  It lost something like $40 million this year
  • The team is worth $100 million here in Phoenix.  That is the going rate for warm-market teams.  The buyer is willing to pay $100 million of his own money for the team.   So why is a subsidy needed?  The NHL insists on selling the team for $200 million or more.  Though it piously claims to want to keep hockey in Arizona, it is selling the team for price than can only be paid by buyers who want to move the team.
  • The City of Glendale appears to have lied outright in selling this deal to the public.  In particular, it claimed the $100 million was not a giveaway, but a payment for the team's rights to charge for parking.  But many insiders say the City always retained this right, and it strains credulity that while losing money for seven years, the team would not have exercised this right if it really owned it.
  • Glendale has only itself to blame, confounding an already difficult marketing task (ice hockey in the desert) by putting the stadium on the far end of a sprawling city.   The location is roughly the equivalent in terms of distance and relationship to the metropolitan area of moving the Chicago Blackhawks or Bulls stadium to Gary, Indiana.  The stadium ended up in Glendale because neither Tempe, Scottsdale, nor Phoenix was willing to make a $200 million, 30-year taxpayer-funded bet on the profitability of ice hockey.


  1. Mike:

    I love to watch hockey. enjoy the playoff games. I think the Stanley Cup tournament is the best event in sports.

    I play hockey too.

    My wife worked for the Dallas Stars during their campaign to get public funds for an arena. Each day she would put a sign in the yard encouraging all to vote in favor of the subsidy. Each night I would take the sign down.

    Tense times around the house.

  2. ADiff:

    I adamantly oppose any such subsidy, and in my case it's perfectly true I also don't care for Hockey. Call me old fashioned, or call be parochial, but Hockey in the Arizona desert seems daft and inappropriate to me.....

    I do like football and baseball....subsidies of which I am equally opposed, such as the rampant tax-payer subsidies to extremely wealthy baseball franchise owners, and I STILL think it should call 'The Tax Dome'!

  3. David Y:

    You just brilliantly crystallized the problem. Pick an issue, an industry, anything--the current mindset is exactly as you describe it.

    The latest here in CA is NPR. If you don't want your tax money going to NPR, that "obviously means you hate it and you're in all likelihood an illiterate NRA member busy shooting gay illegals here for abortions".

    More locally, we have a similar arena/NBA team challenge. It's the Statist mindset.

    I don't just want my freedom back, I want my fellow citizens to want it--rather than so willingly surrender decision-making and money to the state.

  4. Sotosoroto:

    Here in Seattle, we have a history of voting "no" for stadium subsidies, but having our dear leaders ram it down our throat anyway.

    I'm glad they didn't succumb most recently and thus we said goodbye to the Sonics.

  5. rox_publius:

    just finished watching the flyers lose to have their series tied at 2-2

    spent an unreasonable amount of my own money (freely) to be able to attend game 5 friday in philly.

    would gladly support the goldwater institute were they following the same course of action here.

  6. John O.:

    I'm torn on the issue as I've come to really enjoy ice hockey after I moved to Buffalo, New York. However, the Goldwater Institute is right and throwing away one clause of the state Constitution will just lead to other politicians to throw away more of it so, I agree with the Goldwater Institute.

    -- John O.

  7. Dave Boz:

    It's a strange situation: those who oppose giveaways to professional sports teams are the ones expected to defend their views, while the freeloaders are the ones who assume theirs is the default position. It's as if the teams are entitled to taxpayer money unless someone comes up with a really persuasive argument to the contrary. And so we have politicians arguing that the Goldwater Institute's opposition to sports subsidies is somehow illegitimate, while those on the take are thought to have the moral high ground. How very odd.

  8. aczarnowski:

    Why do you hate America? /irony

  9. Mark:

    I always find arguments for football stadiums bizarre. You always hear
    1: It will bring in business and generate $100 million a year (or whatever) if we keep the team here. It will also bring jobs to area X.

    Well that assumes that people will not spend their money elsewhere if they don't have the football option. But what I can't figure is this. Those facilities not only cost a bundle, but take up a considerable amount of land, which is only used maybe 9 times a year, and then throw in a concert or two - 11 times. I think someone can think of some other facility which would get daily use and generate more income and jobs. Do we really want to have people employed for 10 days a year.

    2nd argument: It brings our city prestige it would not otherwise have.
    I don't know about anyone else, but I have never made a consideration about a city based on the football team. San Diego is having problems with the Chargers, if they are lost, would fewer people come to visit? Honey I wanted to see the San Diego Zoo and go to Sea World, and I hear Balboa Park is superb, but San Diego doesn't have a football team lets go to Green Bay instead. Are people really not coming or investing in cities because they don't have a team? I doubt it.

    San Diego should in fact figure out how to expand the airport instead, because having a small outdated airport is forcing folks to fly into Los Angeles instead, and Los Angeles has lots to do too - making SD an afterthought.

  10. Smock Puppet:

    > (ice hockey in the desert)

    Ah, a light begins to dawn! The solution is quite clear, now! Get the arabs to invest some of their oil money in the Phoenix team, as long as you hire only Islamic players.

    The Headline, sure to follow:

    Camel Jockeys Play Ice Hockeys.

  11. Smock Puppet:

    > will just lead to other politicians to throw away more of it

    Isn't the kinetic spending option the usually chosen option for politicians?

  12. bob sykes:

    Columbus, Ohio, voted down a subsidy for a hockey rink, but the owners went ahead and built one anyway. The upshot is that Columbus got a very bad hockey team (losers since first skate), and attendance has gradually fallen. They're losing money. Stupid, stupid owners.

    Part of the problem is that OSU also built an arena just 2 miles away. They and the Bluejackets owners refused to compromise with each other despite economic analyses that Columbus could support only one arena. Now OSU's arena loses money, too, and is subsidized out of general OSU revenues. Stupid, stupid OSU administrators.

    Today, both arenas are managed by OSU, although the University does not have any equity in the hockey arena.

    By the way, I know about the attractions of hockey. I grew up in MA. But it is really a cult sport, and the NHL would be much better off if it were substantially downsized and its southern (south of Philly/Pitt) were moved north.

  13. marco73:

    There is a similar situation here in the Tampa Bay area over baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays have been making money, just not as much as other baseball teams. The stadium holds well over 40,000, but they cover some seats so that capacity is around 37,000. The stadium only sells out for Yankees or Red Sox games, and on concert Saturdays. The rest of the time, there are anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 fans in the stands for home games.
    The league and ownership have been harping for several years that the stadium is old (build in 1985) and too far from the population center of the area; its in downtown St. Pete. Well duh. Maybe someone should have thought of that when they awarded the franchise 12 years ago.
    Taxpayers in Tampa are currently on the hook for various amounts for a new pro football stadium (Raymond James), a new hockey stadium, and an expanded Yankee minor league baseball stadium. I will give kudos to the University of South Florida for also playing their home football games at Raymond James so that stadium is used for an additional 6 or 7 games per year. There have been some rumblings about USF building their own football stadium, but USF has some other priorities for their money first.
    Local power brokers are trying to figure out how and where to build a new baseball stadium and get the taxpayers to spring for that. Any new stadium will cost $500 million plus, and will also have to include some money to bribe St. Pete to get the baseball team out of a long term lease.
    All discussion of who is going to pay for the new stadium revolves around increasing sales taxes, property taxes, tourist taxes, etc. Whenever anyone suggests that maybe the Rays should get some private funding and build their own stadium, that argument is shouted down with "you just don't care about baseball!" No, I care about what I get to keep in my wallet.
    The taxpayers of Tampa are expecting similar shenanigans to how the Miami Marlins got their stadium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Marlins_Stadium

  14. mahtso:

    Does this logic also mean that we can like people from other countries, but be opposed to illegal immigration?