Host cities getting less from their NBA teams than hoped

Los Angeles sits on 500 square miles of temperate Southern California and, if it were a country, would be the 17th biggest economy in the world. But on account of budget woes brought on by the current recession, Los Angeles can?t afford a parade.

Let me say that again: the Lakers just won an NBA championship, and their city has no room in the budget to celebrate.

City councilwoman Jan Perry explained the problem to the LA Times: ?We can’t afford to cover the costs…how could we make a decision about people’s jobs and then sponsor the parade??

But sponsor a parade they will, to the tune of $1 million. The costs will be $2 million, and the Lakers will pick up half the tab.

(HALF!? Half? Are you kidding? Very funny, Team Kobe. Hilarious.)

IMHO, there is no greater act of pure egotism than the championship parade?it?s like throwing yourself a surprise birthday party. It?s pure self-promotion, so I can?t think of one good reason why any city should ever spend a dime on one. Ever. But YMMV.

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On the other coast, the ?Atlantic Yards? arena project has already cost New York City twice as much as budgeted, wiping out the entire $25 million postive the city had anticipated. Originally projected at $555 million, the total cost of the arena has grown to nearly $1 billion. The corporation managing that project has made up the difference with tax-exempt bonds. The city estimates a $200 million dollar loss of tax revenue, with $193 million of that being dumped on federal taxpayers.

The whole project sounds like bait-and-switch to me, with the New Jersey Nets playing the role of the snake oil salesman.

Congratulations, New York! You?ve just bought another NBA basketball team!

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Then there?s the ex-Sonics, who proved beyond all doubt that loyalty is something people and cities extend to their sports teams, not something teams extend to cities and people. (While I?m at it, note that the Sonics also proved that relocation is not just for failing franchises. If a city gives away a slice of ground worth $100 million and throws in $200 million toward covering construction costs, what would keep a billionaire owner from making the move?)

I?m sure I?m not the only one thinking Seattle taxpayers will be better off without the Sonics on their payroll. But how long until Oklahoma City taxpayers end up saddled with a bigger burden than they bargained for?

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With 20 relocations since 1951 and three since 2001, the NBA has relocated far more often than any other U.S. league. But relocations are not just for basketball.

According to Wikipedia, there have been 12 major baseball relocations since 1900. The NFL has also seen a dozen moves. Eight NHL teams have relocated.

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Compare the dynamics of professional sports team ownership in the United States to Europe (again, according to Wikipedia):

?In Europe, this sort of move is very rare… In most sports, teams can be relegated from their current league down to a lower one, or promoted up a league to the one above. Membership of the national top division is gained and held through excellent performance ? and lost when performance slips.

?This arrangement is equally true for every level in the (soccer) pyramid. The pyramid system inevitably leads to nearly every sizable city or town having at least a semi-pro team (or teams) that will have likely have secured the loyalty of the town’s fanbase, thus making the town unattractive to anyone looking to move a team there even if it plays in a higher division. Thus, any person or city wanting a top-league team can invest in the already-existing lower-level team…and hope it can advance to the top division.

?Additionally, the background of many clubs in these leagues is of social and community organisations rather than a commercial venture by an owner or owners, which is why teams are usually referred to as clubs regardless of their current ownership structure.?

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