Maryland approves $1.8B in stadium subsidies one day after New York approves $1B in stadium subsidies – Field of Schemes

Anyhoo, time to come down from the daily Buffalo Bills watch and take some time to decompress from the mad rush to a billion-dollar-plus subsidy in under two weeks, let’s take a look at today’s news for WHAT TH—

I am pleased to announce that over this weekend and on the eve of Opening Day in Baltimore, the Maryland State legislature passed an historic initiative committing $1.2 billion in public funding from the State of Maryland for reinvestment in and reimagination of the Camden Yards Sports Complex. This marks the second-largest public commitment of funding to a Major League Baseball public-private sports partnership, second only to the 2009 construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

That’s an oddly phrased flex, Baltimore Orioles CEO John Angelos — “We got the public to cough up more money than anytime since the Yankees snookered New York out of even more” — but the basics of it are more or less accurate: The Maryland legislature over the weekend approved $600 million in bond capacity for renovations to the Orioles’ stadium, and another $600 million for renovations to the Ravens‘ stadium. They also okayed $400 million for “infrastructure” around the Washington Commanders‘ stadium in Prince George’s County, though according to the Washington Post, “early conversations between the county and the stadium authority” would “curtail” the cash from being used for things like team offices and a training center; and also approved $200 million in minor-league baseball stadium money, because it wouldn’t be fair to leave the Delmarva Shorebirds out of the fun.

What will the Orioles and Ravens owners do with their loot, given that both have stadiums that are well-liked and are 30 and 24 years old, respectively? They don’t know yet, and they don’t have to know: The legislature didn’t approve bonds for anything in particular, it just granted the Maryland Stadium Authority the right to sell $1.8 billion in bonds for stadium thingsies, to be repaid by future state proceeds from lottery ticket sales. (Or, if people stop buying lottery tickets between now and 2052, state general funds. Gamble like your state finances depend on it, Marylanders!) It’s a set of stadium slush funds, in other words, that the teams can draw from for whatever they like — any Commanders curtailment by the county excepted — so long as the Maryland Stadium Authority approves. (Spoiler: The Maryland Stadium Authority will approve.)

The Maryland stadium deals share more in common with the Bills deal than just a billion-dollar-plus price tag: In both cases, governors pushed through legislation in a matter of days at the tail end of the session with little public debate. The Bills subsidy has its slush-fundy aspects, too — New York state’s “maintenance” funding can be spent on things like security costs if the Bills owners want. (Spoiler: The Bills owners will want.)

It wasn’t that long ago that people were legitimately asking whether the golden age of stadium subsidies had passed, now that Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke had built a multi-billion-dollar seating seat with his own money, and the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s The owners were struggling to get public cash for their stadium dreams. Then, in one weekend, upwards of $2 billion in government money went toward paying for goodies for billionaire sports team owners. I think it’s fair to say that we’re only going to see more stadium demands from other team owners in the near future: The ante has been upped, and the only thing that can stop this or even slow it is if the nation’s down officials collectively put their hands on the public purse. (Spoiler: … you know.)

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