MAJOR LEAGUE LOSERS by Mark S. Rosentraub


The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It
Email this review


 This dense and sometimes difficult financial analysis leads to easily understood and sensible conclusions about the business of sports. Rosentraub (of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana Univ.) is an avid sports fan who concedes the substantial intangible benefits a city can reap from a successful sports franchise. The goal of this exhaustive study, however, is to demonstrate that, economically, cities that spend millions to attract these franchises come out barely even or, more often, wind up deep in the hole. Rosentraub studies the finances of stadium projects in such cities as Indianapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Toronto, and Montreal. Indianapolis, for instance, tried to revitalize its sleepy image and its deteriorating downtown through a multipronged strategy of attracting both professional and amateur athletic activity. But in the end it merely demonstrated Rosentraub's claim that sports is too small a part of any city's economy to generate much growth in terms of jobs and income, nor do profits spill over into other businesses in the community. Team owners, he argues, blackmail cities into huge ``welfare'' subsidies that ``transfer . . . wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper class.'' They are able to do so because ``sports cartels'' insure that ``the number of cities that want teams exceeds the supply,'' thus setting off bidding wars among locales. Rosentraub's solution: End the cartels, get the government out of sports, and let the free market rule. Acknowledging the substantial obstacles to such obvious but radical remedies, he argues that taxpayers at the least must demand to know who pays and who profits, and then decide just how much the intangible benefits of sports are worth. Every New Yorker, especially Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, must read this book before agreeing to a billion-dollar-plus stadium for the Yankees. Ditto for other cities contemplating the construction of a new stadium.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-08317-X
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996