American sports stadiums are replaced and renovated at a shocking rate, as John Oliver documented Sunday on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”
In the last two decades, he said, 90 percent of U.S. sports stadiums have been rebuilt — on the dime of local taxpayers. Some $12 billion was spent on 51 new luxury facilities between 2000 and 2010 alone, according to Oliver.
“Sports teams are wealthy businesses with wealthy owners and they still get our help,” Oliver said.
One example: Oliver said that six days after Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the Red Wings hockey team received approval for $280 million in taxpayer money for a new arena. He pointed out that the owner, Little Caesar’s founder Mike Ilitch, is worth $5.1 billion.
“That’s a little hard to swallow,” Oliver said. “Not as hard to swallow as a Little Caesar’s crazy bread with an assortment of Caesar dips — but still pretty hard.”
According to Oliver, teams not only receive taxpayer-funded facilities, but they also often get to keep the income from stadium naming rights, concessions, luxury boxes, and non-sports events held on the property. The Florida Marlins’ owner framed it candidly: “That’s the whole object of this, is to get more revenue.”
So where do all of these millions of dollars go? Oliver ran through a list of extravagant features including top-deck cabanas equipped with swimming pools, luxury boxes kitted out with snakeskin seats, and, at the Marlins’ new stadium in Miami, a wraparound aquarium behind home plate.
“Most new stadiums nowadays look like they were designed by a coked-up Willy Wonka,” Oliver said.
Watch the segment below, courtesy of HBO: