Don’t let government build an obsolete stadium by Kurt St. Angelo @2005 Libertarian Writers' Bureau
About 21 years ago I was one of several thousand who publicly greeted then-owner Robert Irsay at Hoosier Dome when he brought his Colts franchise to town.
It’s hard now to believe that city of Indianapolis – with help of a county-wide hospitality tax granted by state General Assembly and a generous $25 million grant from Lilly Endowment – built an $82 million, 63,000-seat professional football stadium on pure speculation, without having a team to play in it.
Less than 13 years later, by time it was politically acceptable to mention it, Colts’ owner Jim Irsay appeared on national television to call for a new publicly funded stadium. As then-chairman of Libertarian Party of Marion County, I publicly denounced this idea. I asked how an $82 million public works project could become obsolete shortly more than a decade after it was built.
The straight and fundamental answer is that RCA Dome was built by three entities that had no experience in business of professional football: a local government, a state government and a tax-exempt foundation.
Why should we have expected anything but a no-frills building, one that had too few luxury suites and too few fancy club seats to turn an NFL team moderately profitable in modern age?
Relying on usual experts lacking imagination and foresight, government built a facility that was too small, and was neither expandable nor convertible. Worse, it tied project to special interest groups, such as downtown parking-lot owners.
But main problem with government-built stadiums like RCA Dome is that no one is really accountable for decisions once stadiums turn out to be inappropriate. The William Hudnut administration, which built Dome and brought Colts to town, was long gone before inadequacies of facility become apparent.
For example, RCA Dome has always been small by NFL standards. However, since adding extra luxury suites and club seats in 1998, Dome is NFL’s smallest with 57,500 seats.