As with anything in sports, arenas have gotten bigger as time has gone by. Gone are the days where they can just seat folks and offer concessions. Now, they need to be cutting edge, have places to entertain if games are poor and always make sure to provide a good experience even if your team is losing. Baseball still has slews of classic stadiums around and a few older football ones are around. But for the most part, the shelf life of an arena now seems to be 20 years at the most before the demands for a new place come around. Of course, costs rise, especially if you’re in a huge city and facing major construction issues. That means having to pay off in various ways. It’s notable that the new Raiders stadium in Vegas will be fully funded privately, so fans aren’t on the hook for any of its $2 billion cost. But that’s an exception rather than the rule.
It’s one thing to handle part of the bill for a team in an effort to keep them in the city. It’s something else when taxpayers have to deal with arenas and stadiums for teams that are frankly horrible. Throw in the variety of tax laws and how some cities and states have to pay far more and it becomes far more complex. Some places are marvels and well worth the cost while others having you thinking folks should be demanding massive refunds. It shows how much of a billion dollar business sports are and how important they become to cities. Here are 25 of the most expensive sports stadiums that taxpayers had to foot a lot of the bill for, just for the sake of a game.
25 Audi Field: $300 Million ($180 Million From Taxpayers)
Paying out $300 million for a new stadium isn’t too bad a deal, given how there are so many expensive ones around. Except it’s not for the Nationals, Redskins or Capitals but for…D.C. United. That’s right, soccer. A sport that’s yet to become the dominant one in the U.S.
Somehow, the team talked D.C. into giving them a huge new field despite how they’re not exactly drawing sellout crowds.
To have the taxpayers (many of whom don’t even watch soccer) paying so much for a new stadium makes this one of the bigger-seeming rip-offs for a sports arena around.
24 PPG Paints Arena: $321 Million ($311 Million From Taxpayers)
After years in the Civic Arena, the Penguins were looking for a new place in 2009 and a deal was made that would involve being financed by some local casinos. Thus the Consol Energy Center (as it was first known) wouldn’t hit the taxpayer too much. However, the recession combined with skyrocketing interest rates in stocks led to Consol hitting major problems. Thus, the city has been forced to step in more which includes renaming the place.
All told, the taxpayers of Pittsburgh are footing the bill for almost all of the cost of the Arena.
23 Arrowhead Stadium: $422 million In 2018 $$ ($475 million From Taxpayers)
Arrowhead Stadium was opened in 1972, making it one of the oldest NFL team stadiums around. Its cost then was $43 million, which would be about $252 million today. In 2007, the Kansas City population was told the place needed a long-overdue renovation to bring it up to speed for modern audiences and were warned of the cost. Jackson County voters agreed by a wide majority for a plan involving a huge renovation of Arrowhead, although they did veto a retractable roof. It took over three years to make it all work out and it indicates the taxpayers are ponying up nearly half a billion dollars for the fix-ups.
22 University of Arizona Stadium: $455 Million ($308 Million From Taxpayers)
Since its opening in 2006, this huge stadium has been home to the Cardinals, the Fiesta Bowl, the BCS, three Super Bowls and a WrestleMania. That’s good for local businesses since the Tempe taxpayers are footing the bill for about 80 percent of it.
According to reports, almost 40 percent of the debt in Glendale is from sports venues so it’s no shock the biggest of the bunch gets attention.
True, Arizona is in pretty good shape as far as budgets, but way it’s still a big strain given it’s one of the bigger stadiums in the country. It is notable for how it can separate the main playing field for an area for concerts but also a huge burden on the local Phoenix taxpayer to make this a very expensive desert spot.
21 Century Link Field: $461.3 Million ($300.3 Million From Taxpayers)
This is often ranked as one of the best stadiums in the entire world. That’s thanks to the Seahawks, the team that dominated as the “Legion of Boom” with a Super Bowl win, another trip the following year and still in the running. The place is unique for its structure which enhances the crowd’s roars to deafening levels and gives an energy other places lack. That’s good given how the taxpayers have had to handle the bill for the majority of the place, including some renovations over the years. The majority is built off of Seattle, which does have a good economy yet asking fans to pony up the majority should lead to more screaming outside the Field than in it.
20 Amway Center: $480 Million ($430 Million From Taxpayers)
In the late 2000s, the Magic were grousing over the Amway Arena, despite the fact the place wasn’t even two decades old. They even started talking over moving and the Orlando city council didn’t want to lose a major cash cow. So they agreed to build a new arena on the popular Church Street but it wasn’t long before word got out about debt issues with the construction company and financiers. It’s become obvious that about 90 percent of the cost is being paid for by Orlando residents. For a town where the tourists can outnumber the actual population, having the taxpayers shell out that much for a basketball arena is a huge price even for Orlando.
19 Lincoln Financial Field: $518 million ($188 Million From Taxpayers)
Try to follow the logic here. In 2001, the city of Philadelphia's representatives was given a choice: Build an entirely new stadium or pony up $80 million in city funds to renovate Veterans Stadium. Logic would say you pick the cheaper route of a renovation. Instead, Street and company went for the former option.
Yes, the Philly public had to pony up nearly half the cost for the home of the Eagles and that’s not counting an extensive renovation in 2013.
This includes double the number of luxury suites and fancier screens. Philly is known as a town of fans who seem to love going against the grain, yet choosing an entirely new place over renovating a classic one is offbeat even by their standards.
18 WESC: $534 Million ($250 Million From Taxpayers)
Opening later this year, the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is going to be the new home for the Bucks, a team that last won a divisional title back in 2001. This has garnered huge controversy not just in Wisconsin but nationwide thanks to how the state decided to cut millions out of various educational and social programs, yet agreed to help pony up the bill for this place. It’s estimated it will cost a quarter of a billion dollars for taxpayers but there’s rumors it might end up being even more. That would be one thing for a team with a championship history but crazier for a team with a poor record and thus putting more of a burden on Wisconsin taxpayers.
17 Soldier Field: $587 Million ($387 Million From Taxpayers)
The appalling part is that the price above isn’t for a stadium. It’s just for renovations. In 2003, the Bears were grousing over Soldier Field showing its age and while appreciating its status as an icon of Chicago, wanted something better. Thus, the city pushed that Soldier Field actually be taken off the list of being a historical landmark to go through a monster renovation. Besides upgrading the screens and seats, they added the huge grandstand that makes it look like a spaceship is landing by Lake Michigan.
It’s been slammed by many in Chicago because of how the taxpayers are still handling the cost of it all (in a city where infrastructure is a nightmare). Given the bad seasons the Bears have had since, it hardly seems to have been worth the cost.
16 Superdome: $610 Million In 2018 $$ ($318 Million From Taxpayers)
As one of the older stadiums on this list, the Superdome has naturally seen its costs rise over the years. Its price upon opening was $175 million, quite a sum in 1975 (over $600 million today). The biggest disaster was in 2006 after the Superdome took severe damage from Hurricane Katrina.
In a move rather controversial, the city agreed to rush renovations despite how much of New Orleans was still showing huge damage from the Katrina flooding.
The renovations cost over $300 million. The city defends it on how the Superdome is an icon of New Orleans yet given that there are still areas not fully recovered, having taxpayers handle over $300 million to fix up a stadium seems a bit off.
15 SunTrust Park: $622 Million ($300 Million From Taxpayers)
In the mid-90s, the Braves were a dominant force with five straight divisional titles and five World Series trips. Right after winning in 1995, they moved to Turner Field, named after their long-time owner Ted Turner. In 2016, the Braves moved to SunTrust Park. SunTrust is a good park with its water feature and huge LED screen but Cobb County residents are on the bill for over half its cost. It’s estimated it might actually be much higher, closer to $400 million or beyond, which is a lot to shell out for a team yet to get back any of the winning glory they had at their old place.
14 Marlins Park: $634 Million ($488 Million From Taxpayers)
Since their creation in 1993, the Marlins had been playing at Joe Robbie Stadium (the Hard Rock Stadium today) with more than a few finding it off to have Miami’s baseball team in a football stadium. Marlins Park opened in 2012 on the site of the iconic Orange Bowl.
When it got out that the owners had lied about how much taxpayer money was being used for it, it kicked off an ugly lawsuit.
Not helping is that the place lands on lists of the worst stadiums in MLB (even with its retractable roof) and the fact it’s barely half-filled thanks to how terrible the Marlins are. So Miami residents are still paying for what’s turned into a major eyesore for the city.
13 Paul Brown Stadium: $647 Million In 2018 $$ ($1.1 Billion From Taxpayers)
Opened in 2000, Paul Brown Stadium was paid for by raising the state taxes and has been used by the Bengalis as leverage as well as undergoing various renovations. But it’s shocking to discover that as of late 2017, taxpayers in Ohio’s Hamilton County have coughed up $930 million for this stadium since it opened due to rising land costs and other issues. That’s nearly twice what it cost to build the thing in the first place. Worse, even if the Bengals were to suddenly move, the county will still be paying off costs until 2026. Thus, the woes of the Bengals extend to their entire county and will for years to come.
12 Ford Field: $658 Million ($230 Million From Taxpayers)
Ford Field is, of course, owned and operated by the family who have been a legacy in Detroit for a century and it’s their support that has kept the Lions alive despite some truly abysmal history. It’s on display during their annual Thanksgiving Day game and boasts a huge design and a seating arrangement unique for the NFL. Of course, it’s often half-empty and many fans having to endure some wretched play on the field. Given that Detroit is infamously teetering on bankruptcy, having fans continue to cough up a major portion of this place just makes it more outlandish that a team as horrible as the Lions have such a lavish stadium.
11 Nationals Park: $693 Million (All From Taxpayers)
Opened in 2008, this nearly $700 million park, was to be financed by a system of banks but a complicated series of events caused that to fall through.
The team and the city put on the guise of a better deal but it’s since been confirmed that it’s the public that’s paying for this entire place.
The Nationals have been improving with some divisional titles but that still doesn’t make up for how they’re pretty much the only sports stadium in the world where 100 percent of the cost is entirely on the backs of their own fans.
10 Lucas Oil Stadium: $719.6 Million ($619.6 Million From Taxpayer)
On the one hand, it’s often cited as one of the best places to watch a football game in the NFL. With its “old school” design and retractable roof, the home of the Colts has seen great success and fans do enjoy taking in its terrific interior. However, it was only after the construction deal went through that it turns out someone was fudging some of the numbers on the stadium and its high cost. The Indiana General Assembly had to step in to cover the cost at a time when the state was in some serious financial trouble. Thus, the Indiana taxpayers are handling almost 86 percent of the cost of the place.
9 CitiField $1 Billion ($400 Million From Taxpayers)
It’s basically an open joke in New York since 2009 that the home of the Mets should be called “Taxpayer Field.” It opened up just as the recession was hitting the city as the Mets naturally wanted a new place of their own to challenge the Yankees’ new stadium. They tried to replicate a few old ballparks like Shea and others with huge boards and a classic look in contrast to the temple-like building Yankee Stadium is. But that doesn’t excuse how it puts a further strain on New Yorkers, especially given the Mets hardly have the same clout and success the Yankees do. To ask fans to pay nearly half a billion just adds more to the woes of the Mets fanbase and how much it hurts to make fans pay for such much pain.
8 Barclays Center: $1 Billion ($305 Million From Taxpayers)
That one of the most expensive sports places in the world rests in Brooklyn seems bizarre. Barclays is part of Pacific Park, an attempt by Brooklyn to regain some of the glory days they once had (a lot of which they lost when the Dodgers moved).
It did succeed in luring the Nets in from New Jersey as well as the Islanders but its cost raised more than a few eyebrows.
That’s mostly due to the huge oculus with its LCD screen that gets major attention. It can handle sports as well as wrestling and a variety of concerts yet it still seems off that a team like the Nets has one of the richest arenas in the world. It’s costing the Brooklyn taxpayers over $305 million which puts the pride of the area in a new light.
7 Madison Square Garden $1.1 Billion ($320 Million From Taxpayers)
In the late 2000s, the iconic Madison Square Garden underwent a massive renovation that updated it from top to bottom, a move most saw as overdue. However, it also has caused nightmares in many ways from traffic to blocking a proposed Penn Station renovation. There’s also the fact that MSG is exempt from tax laws which means it’s the neighbors who foot more of the bill than the owners. Their huge draws (Knicks, Rangers, concerts and more) take some edge off, but it shows how New Yorkers have yet more debt to push on themselves thanks to the Mecca.
6 U.S. Bank Stadium $1.1 Billion ($498 Million From Taxpayers)
The U.S Bank Stadium boasts a fantastic front and it was well displayed during the Viking’s great 2017 run and epic 2018 playoff victory. In that case, it's worth its cost yet it’s also a hit on the taxpayers. That’s because they have to basically pay for half of it, a huge hit on a city that’s already facing a few financial issues. That’s led to such things like a whopping increase on cigarette taxes and other policies in the state that means taxpayers are going to be footing the bill here for quite a while. It’s a good thing they had the “Minneapolis Miracle” as Vikings fans are in for a long journey of paying for that stadium.
5 AT&T Stadium: $1.2 Billion ($444 Million From Taxpayers)
Opened up as Cowboy Stadium in 2009, this was Jerry Jones’ “gift” for the people of Dallas. No matter what, they love the Cowboys. Thus, this massive stadium was built, notable for its huge retractable roof, state of the art scoreboards and other high-tech additions.
It’s prominently displayed on TV for big games as well as the Cotton Bowl Classic and its features show how it cost over a billion dollars.
The folks in Dallas had to pay up for it with roughly $445 million in taxpayer money going to the construction of the stadium amid other tax issues. True, the Cowboys are worth over $4 billion so not a bad bargain but it shows how much Dallas loves their team to pay that amount to help them find a home.
4 Levi’s Stadium $1.3 Billion ($114 Million From Taxpayers)
For years, the 49ers had secretly been annoyed playing at Candlestick Park. Change finally happened in 2014 with Levi’s Stadium and a big deal was made of it being tax-exempt. However, construction and other issues forced public to pony up upwards of $100 million before construction was finally finished. Also, there’s how nearly a billion dollars is from the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, meant to be paid off via profits but if those don’t come, then the taxpayers start footing the bill. It's just remarkable how a stadium named after a company known for making jeans could cost so much to put together, including for taxpayers.
3 Mercedes-Benz Stadium: $1.5 Billion ($200 Million From Taxpayers)
The home of the Falcons opened in 2017. However, controversy loomed over it thanks to it being paid off by Georgia taxpayers for up to $200 million. Given this was just after the Falcons’ epic Super Bowl collapse, it felt worse as more than a few fans were still upset over that Super Bowl loss. The stadium still gets attention for such things as its unique “pinwheel opening” roof (that is, when they get it working) and the Falcons are still a top team yet the taxpayers are the ones having to pony up more for their home field.
Given how the Georgia Dome wasn’t even 20 years old, getting rid of it seemed a bit much, not to mention the effects building this new home had on the community, so Atlanta residents aren’t too pleased with this place.
2 Las Vegas Stadium: $1.9 Billion ($700 Million From Taxpayers)
Technically, it’s not open yet but it’s still notable for how expensive it is and how much it’s costing the taxpayer. The Raiders will start playing in Las Vegas, likely by 2020. They’ll be in a huge new stadium being built. It will be the most expensive NFL stadium (shared with UNLV) and is promising state-of-the-art facilities (not to mention constant air conditioning to handle the desert heat). Construction is underway and it’s expected to have a price of nearly $2 billion. Of that, the Vegas taxpayers will supply $700 million. However, it’s been met by arguments on how the area could have used the money for a better tourist spot than a stadium for a team with a temperamental owner and a so-so record on the field, making this a huge risk. True, Vegas is built on tourism, but it's still crazy how they’re rolling the dice on taxpayers with this new place.
1 Yankee Stadium: $2.3 Billion ($600 Million From Taxpayers)
Say what one will about George Steinbrenner but the man knew the Yankees needed to look good to be champions. He paid millions to rebuild the franchise into a dynasty and it paid off with dominance in the late 1990s and 2000s. For years, Steinbrenner had been pushing New York to give the Yankees a new place to live in and he finally broke them down in the 2000s.
Ground was broken in 2006 and the massive edifice (more a temple to the Yankees than a stadium) was opened in 2009.
It paid off for fans as the Yankees won another World Series that year yet it’s also costing taxpayers about $600 million. Of course, Yankees fans consider that a small price to pay for their success but it’s still notable for the most expensive stadium in the world.