Site hosted by Build your free website today!
The Verdict Is In.
The People Said NO to MAPS.
This site was created in advance of the 1998 MAPS referendum in Birmingham, Alabama.
It is being maintained because there is still some interest in MAPS today.

Maps & Legends

What is MAPS?
Where will the money go?
Who wants MAPS?
What's so bad about MAPS?
Are there alternatives?
How can I find out more?
How can I get involved?

What's so bad about a domed stadium?

OK, here's the big question: Is it worth it? Can Birmingham justify the cost of a domed stadium, even one that can double as a "multi-purpose convention center"?

And here's the answer: No.

And here are five reasons why:

  1. Birmingham loses money
  2. The poor pay more of the cost
  3. The public pays the entire cost
  4. The price is too high
  5. The price will only get higher

1. Birmingham would lose money

Birmingham should expect to lose money because every city that builds a major sports facility loses money.

A recent nationwide survey proved that, despite the claims of stadium boosters, sports facilities do not pay for themselves.

The economic impact of stadium project is routinely overstated by stadium advocates. The facts, according to Brookings Institution research, are these:

Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.

Read more of this article
More about stadium subsidies:

2. The MAPS tax increase is regressive: The poor would pay more

It is almost incredible that MAPS could seriously propose a sales tax increase in a county where the existing rate is already at 8% or 9%.

The sales tax places a disproportionate burden on the poor, because they must spend a larger share of their income on the basic necessities of life. Because the sales tax allows no exemptions for food or medicine, this burden is even heavier. (Oddly enough, the tax increase on automobile purchases is only 1/8 cent - one half of the BARTA assessment.)

MAPS proponents claim that the sales tax will be lowered again "after the bond conditions are met." But the wording of the MAPS legislation makes this highly unlikely. The Jefferson County Progress Authority is granted the power to come up with new projects and purposes for the sales-tax revenue for as long as it likes.

Read more about the tax increase

3. The public pays the entire bill

Keep in mind that most stadium projects are funded by private money in addition to tax dollars. Public financing of the planned $325 million San Francisco '49ers stadium comes to $100 million, less than 31% of the total.

The MAPS plan calls for 100% public funding. Why?

4. The price is too high

It's true that MAPS supporters want to build "more than just a stadium." So perhaps their "multi-purpose convention and entertainment facility/domed stadium" should cost more than the average major-league arena. Still, it seems surprising that Birmingham should be asked to buy a facility that costs $80 million more than it took to build Baltimore's Camden Yards ballpark. (And that's just the estimated construction costs.)

When we start talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, it's easy to lose any sense of perspective. Some kind of yardstick is needed, to help determine whether we're getting what we pay for. So here's a list of construction cost estimates for stadiums built in the 1990s, all of them lower than the $280 million figure requested by MAPS:

                                     Const. cost    Public share
          San Francisco ('49ers)    $325 million    $100 million
          MAPS domed complex        $280 million    $280 million
          San Diego (baseball)      $240 million     $87 million
          Tampa Bay, Fla.           $168 million    $168 million
          Jacksonville, Fla.        $161 million    $150 million (est.)

Stadium news from other cities

5. The price will only get higher

Stadium building projects have a tendency to run over budget. OK, the fact is that they all run over budget. Consider the following stadiums now under construction:

                            original estimate   latest figures   overrun
                            -----------------   --------------   -------
Baltimore (Ravens stadium)      $200 million     $220 million      10%
Cleveland (football stadium)    $220 million     $268 million      22%
Cleveland (Jacobs Field)        $343 million     $462 million      35%
Milwaukee (Miller Field)        $250 million     $400 million      60%
Seattle (Safeco Field)          $320 million     $415 million      30%

Cost overruns have also been an issue in the Oklahoma City MAPS program, from which Birmingham MAPS derived its name.

In light of this history, it seems only sensible for Birmingham to prepare for cost overruns when building the stadium/convention center - especially considering the ambitious scale of the project.

[A thought experiment] Assuming a 10% cost overrun for Birmingham (the lowest overrun on the list of current stadium projects) - our construction costs would climb from $280 million to $308 million. Other stadium-related costs are liable to increase by similar proportions, pushing our stadium costs beyond $500,000,000 - or half a billion dollars.

Unfortunately, there's nothing far-fetched about this scenario. Milwaukee's out-of-control project reminds us of just how bad things could get. A 60% overrun in Birmingham, by the way, would lead to $480 million in building costs alone. . . . or a total bill of nearly $750 million!

Stadium news from other cities

Back Forward
Return to top of page
Edited by Rob Collins