USA Today NBA writer Sam Amick has a 2-for-1 today in the form of a solid interview with USC Sports Business Institute’s David Carter prefaced by a recap of the ongoing Seattle-vs.-Sacramento drama. Carter tries to get to the heart of the issue facing NBA owners next month: Is it better to be the 5th team in a larger market (SEA) or the only team in a smaller market (SAC)? Carter doesn’t take sides, instead choosing to lay out the cases for both. He also expanded the discussion to include the implications of trying to build something in California, where public funding for stadia is difficult to attain. The end of the interview has a response that encapsulates the issues in Sacramento and throughout the state so well that I had to quote it here. (Questions come from Amick, answers from Carter)
Q: I’ve been hearing a few things about the public subsidy coming into play with Sacramento’s offer, potentially around $255 million that they would put into the arena, and the idea that the NBA has concern about walking away from that type of public contribution – especially in California – where it’s so tough to get public contributions. If they walk away from it, they lose a blueprint they’d like to use moving forward. Does that pass your smell test?
A: “That’s a great observation. We’ve seen that with not just teams, but teams and venues throughout the state – from San Diego to obviously now Sacramento. The Bay Area is a good example, and LA has been at the center of it. These leagues want to be able to extract public subsidies, and if they don’t do that then it gives other cities the opportunity to point the finger and say, ‘Well they didn’t kick in tax dollars over there, why should we here?
“If it’s a quality, free-standing business that’s going to be competitive in the marketplace, then it should be able to survive on its own. That would be one side of the argument. The other side of the argument, from these owners – and it’s a good one – is that there are a lot of people who are enjoying our product and not paying directly for it. You have a sense of pride in your city, even if you don’t attend a game or you don’t watch too many of them on television. Someone needs to pay for that externality, for that benefit that the community is getting for having this company in town. You could argue that that subsidy is supposed to cover that benefit people are getting from having the team there. Maybe it’s more of theoretical bump than anything else, but it’s fair to say, ‘What’s Green Bay without the Packers?’ That’s truly a sports company town.
“Maybe if it’s an amenity, or if it’s a resource that a lot of people want and can identify with, then maybe people should be paying for someone living vicariously through their product but not paying for it.”
Take that into your weekend. I’m going to refrain from commenting on it for now, as I’d like to see what responses are elicited first.