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Sin Tax Debate Raises Question Of Whether Sports Stadiums Help Local Economy

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 6:00 PM

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In just over a month, Cuyahoga County voters will decide whether or not to extend the so-called “sin tax” to keep maintaining three major sports facilities in the Cleveland area. The payoff -- and costs -- of such an extension were debated today at the City Club. ideastream’s Brian Bull reports:

Photo Gallery

Moderator Nick Castele and panelists at today's City Club event (pic: Brian Bull) Kevin Kelley, Peter Pattakos, and Neil deMause (on monitor) debate the sin tax (pic by Brian Bull) City Club of Cleveland's formal bell that signals start and end of each debate (pic by Brian Bull) Attendees included largely pro sin-tax groups, including Greater Cleveland Commission and Cleveland Indians (pic by Brian Bull)

Nearly all those who packed the City Club’s banquet hall were from groups pushing to renew the sin tax, including the Cleveland Indians and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. 

Panelist Len Komoroski, CEO of the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans, cast the Browns, Indians and Cavs as being key to the success of Cleveland’s downtown revitalization. 

“I would suggest to you that these facilities and these team in the core of downtown, which is another great planning scenario by our founding fathers in terms of having all three of these teams as part of a walkable, live work and play 24/7 city,” said Komoroski.  “I would suggest to you that we are much better off as a city. 

But Neil deMause, editor of the blog, Field of Schemes, argues that there’s no evidence that sports facilities benefit cities much at all.  Often the economic benefits are pinpointed and fleeting.

“Obviously the sports bars say – across the street from a stadium – are going to do better if there’s a game going on.  I’m not arguing that,” said deMause. “But as we’ve discussed before, it’s about the impact on the entire city.  So if people are spending money in one restaurant and not in another restaurant, that may be a benefit to that one restaurant, but it’s not a benefit to the city overall.”

The sin tax costs a penny per glass of wine, a penny and a half per bottle of beer, and nearly a nickel per pack of cigarettes. 

Voters will decide on the extension May 6th.

Additional Information

City Club of Cleveland website
Keep Cleveland Strong site favoring extension of sin tax
Cleveland Frowns site against the sin tax
Field of Schemes site, edited by Neil deMause


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