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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pro Sports Team Owners, New Stadiums and You

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Writer Jeremy Repanich has an interesting piece about his time working for the Seattle Sonics over at Deadspin this afternoon. Included in his account of the team's final years in the Emerald City is an insider's view of then-owner Howard Schultz's unsuccessful quest to force the public to build a new stadium for the team. Repanich states the reasons for stadium upgrades in a way that is particularly germane to our current situation with the Rams.
Schultz's Super Bowl-week declaration, however, betrayed a civic truth most sports fans fail to acknowledge. If you think your hometown sports teams are all great buddies, you're wrong. The Celtics' biggest rivals aren't the Lakers; they're the Bruins. Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant may compete for wins, but the Celtics and Bruins compete for money. There are a finite number of rich people in any given city, with a finite amount of money to spend on sports. When a team can make the same amount of money selling two courtside seats as they can selling an entire section of the upper bowl, they'll target their sales strategies accordingly. Getting the affluent to your games means pampering them the minute they walk through the doors.
Maybe Repanich is right, maybe he's just another bitter and betrayed sports fan. But the idea that the stadium arms race is fueled in part by professional jealousy among team owners fighting for the limited, desirable customer base -- "desirable" meaning very rich -- is a compelling one. Is that hard to picture Stan Kroenke visiting downtown and being jealous of that massive new stadium that isn't his? Whatever is in those top-secret proposals and counter-proposals between the team and the CVC, you can bet that most of the desired changes to the stadium will cater to people who meet that "desirable" criteria.

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