FitzGerald: Sports Teams Should Compete For Local Tax Dollars

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Last month, local voters extended a tax on alcohol and cigarettes for 20 more years. There’s been talk about splitting the $13 million generated annually evenly between the Indians, Cavaliers and Browns.

But FitzGerald said the teams should have to compete for one-fifth of that cash by actually playing well, what he calls a “win tax.” He said five decades is too long to wait for another championship victory.

“We love these teams, we’re loyal to these teams, and we’re committed to maintaining these facilities," FitzGerald said. "But we can try to demand a little bit better than what we’ve been getting for 50 years."

“My first thought was, well, that’s kind of wacky,” said Neil DeMause, founder of the blog Field of Schemes, of public funding for stadiums. "It’s an interesting concept. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily the best way of getting at it, but it’s an interesting conversation to start having at least.”

A conversation about holding teams accountable for the taxpayer money they’re getting. But University of Michigan professor Mark Rosentraub – who helped renegotiate agreements with two teams in Cleveland – said the market already rewards teams for playing well.

“People have to remember, when the Indians were far more successful, they sold out 455 games successfully," Rosentraub said. "When teams don’t perform as well, attendance declines.”

Cleveland officials have yet to warm up to FitzGerald’s idea. But ultimately it’s the Cuyahoga County Council’s decision – and they haven’t even seen legislation yet.