'Economic Revitalization' Plan Pushed by Raiders, Oakland Officials Is Delusional — And Should Not Be Reported on Uncritically

If Oakland politicos and Raiders officials earnestly reported that the sun rotates around the earth or that the world is shaped like a yam, we would expect something other than a cursory retelling in the next day's papers. So why, when the city and team announce that they hope to bring about “economic revitalization” via partly city-funded development centered around a new mega-stadium for the Raiders, are they given a free pass?

You don't have to be an economist or a real-estate developer to know there's something screwy with the following rationale: “You know what would really get people flowing into my retail/residential development? A massive stadium that's empty 355 days a year!”

Neil Demause is the author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. When told about the Raiders' plan, he actually laughed: Owners angling for government subsidies have been pushing the “economic revitalization” line since going to see the Lions at the Coliseum was part of the Bread & Circuses double bill.

“Football is a terrible anchor” for development, he confirms. “You get a football stadium in there, it brings in people 10 afternoons a year. Everyone floods in and floods back out. How many tailgating supplies can you sell? Other than that, it's a dead zone.” 

When asked if there are any situations where a football stadium has successfully anchored large-scale development, Demause couldn't think of one. Petco Park in San Diego and Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. could be possible exceptions, he notes — but those are both baseball stadiums — which feature 81 home dates a year, not eight — and extensive development was already under way before those stadiums popped along.

Nevertheless, here's what Raiders CEO Amy Trask told the Chronicle: “Stadium development has been used quite successfully to spur economic

revitalization in other communities. … We have suggested to the city … that we collectively pursue the idea of using a stadium

development project as part of a larger, economic redevelopment plan in

and around the stadium.”

Her example for the Chron: The rebirth of Baltimore's inner harbor neighborhood, which she attributed to the Ravens' new stadium. That made Demause laugh again. Harder. 

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