The NFL Loves Local Tax Increases For Stadiums, Except When NFL Officials Have to Pay Them

This narrative is familiar. An NFL team wants more money. Team executives raise smoke signals about leaving for, say, Los Angeles. Local politicians respond with an incentive package of public funding to finance renovations or a new stadium. Twenty NFL teams have built or renovated stadiums since 1997. Nineteen of the 20 projects involved public funding (the Meadowlands had a nine-figure public infrastructure project that does not count as a stadium expense).

Eleven of those 19 projects involved tax increases. Many of those taxes are hotel and car rental taxes, designed to defray the cost from the local population. The NFL loves such taxes, except, of course, when league officials would have to pay them.

Miami and Santa Clara are bidding to host Super Bowl L in 2016. The new 49ers stadium involves a two percent hotel tax. Renovations to Sun Life Stadium would necessitate a one percent hotel tax increase in Miami. The NFL has demanded that league employees be held exempt from local taxes. Santa Clara already agreed, meaning Miami must likely do so as well.

But the region’s rival for the 50th game, Santa Clara, last week announced it would waive hotel taxes for NFL executives. That raises the stakes as the Dolphins lobbying team races to obtain state and county approval of the tax-funded renovation by May 22, when NFL owners will pick a winner.

“It’s pretty mind-boggling what the NFL asks of cities. But they’re a business,’’ said Dan Beerman a City Hall spokesman in Santa Clara, home to a $1.2 billion stadium under construction for the San Francisco 49ers. “I guess if you’re staying for a few weeks, it adds up.”

One might be inclined to criticize, but the league is being rational here. Why should NFL executives contribute to infrastructure improvements that directly inflate the values of NFL franchises? How would that make sense? To be fair to the NFL, Super Bowl demands are trifling compared to what FIFA demands from World Cup hosts.

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