Cities Paying the Most for Sports Teams

5. Milwaukee
> Public per capita stadium cost: $468
> Population: 1,562,216 (39th largest)
> Number of major league teams: 2
> Number of stadiums: 2

Milwaukee has two major professional sports stadiums. The BMO Harris Bradley Center, where the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks play, was built in 1988 with largely private funding. The city’s MLB stadium, Miller Park, was completed in 2001 mostly with taxpayer money. Through 2010, the stadium had cost taxpayers $681 million — more than any other stadium in baseball. In 2004, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson accused former owner and now baseball commissioner Bud Selig of misrepresenting the team’s finances in order to receive public funds for the stadium. Currently, Milwaukee is again debating building a new publicly financed sports facility, this time for the Bucks.

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4. Cleveland
> Public per capita stadium cost: $517
> Population: 2,068,283 (28th largest)
> Number of major league teams: 3
> Number of stadiums: 3

As of 2010 the public costs of all three major sports facilities in Cleveland was just under $1.1 billion, with 75% of the funds needed to build the stadiums coming from the public. The most expensive to build was Cleveland Browns Stadium, which cost $441 million. The other two facilities, Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, were built in 1994. The cost of those facilities was $399 million and $328 million, respectively. Cleveland’s professional sports teams, however, have struggled to compete. The last major professional sports team in the city to win a title was the Browns, who won the NFL Championship in 1964.

3. Cincinnati
> Public per capita stadium cost: $543
> Population: 2,137,735 (27th largest)
> Number of major league teams: 2
> Number of stadiums: 2

The total cost to the public for building and maintaining Cincinnati’s two stadiums was close to $1.2 billion through 2010, behind only the much larger cities of Houston, Phoenix and Dallas. Great American Ballpark, built in 2003 and home to the Cincinnati Reds, cost the city $489 million through 2010. But an even worse deal for taxpayers was Paul Brown Stadium, which hosts the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, on which the public spent $706 million as of 2010. This was the most spent on any NFL stadium except for Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. According to a 2011 report by The Wall Street Journal, Hamilton County is responsible for almost all operating costs and structural improvements. The county also agreed to “foot the bill for high-tech bells and whistles that have yet to be invented, like a ‘holographic replay machine.”

2. Indianapolis
> Public per capita stadium cost: $598
> Population: 1,777,684 (35th largest)
> Number of major league teams: 2
> Number of stadiums:2

Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, opened in August of 2008 to replace the RCA Dome. The stadium cost  $749 million to build, with 89% of that price tag funded by the public. Including ongoing costs, taxpayers have spent more than $764 million on the stadium–more than any other single facility in the U.S. The facility has a retractable roof and seats approximately 67,000 fans. Lucas Oil bought the naming rights to the stadium for 20 years for $122 million. Since the stadium opened, the Colts have made the playoffs in all seasons except for 2011, when the team won just two games. This most recent season, the team went a respectable 11-5. Lucas Oil also hosted the Super Bowl in 2012, where the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots.

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1. Green Bay
> Public per capita stadium cost: $1,114
> Population: 309,469 (152nd largest)
> Number of major league teams: 1
> Number of stadiums:1

Green Bay only has one professional sports team, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers play in Lambeau Field, which was originally built in 1957. The 2003 renovation of the stadium cost of $411 million, of which $241 million, or 59%, was paid by taxpayers. With ongoing costs included, the price tag for taxpayers on the renovation rose to $334 million through 2010. To pay for these renovations, Brown County taxpayers approved a half-cent sales tax, while ticket holders were charged a one time seat user fee by the city, the team and the NFL. In 2011, the team issued stock shares that have allowed it  to pay for further improvements to Lambeau Field.

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