Advocates of public sports stadiums should admit that they are homers, not economic development experts. That’s the conclusion of an editorial from Bloomberg.com. The headline announces: “As Super Bowl shows, build stadiums for love and not money.”

It notes that the Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of the recently completed Super Bowl XVI, cost $720 million–of which the chief beneficiary of the spending, the Indianapolis Colts–spent a mere $100 million.

Fellow policy fellow David Strom has suggested that the Minnesota Vikings have as much of a claim on the “cultural” money from the Legacy Amendment as the Guthrie or any of the state’s “high culture” institutions. Officials in Indianapolis have come to a similar conclusion: As the expenses of the stadium exceeded projections, the county-city board “had to reduce arts and cultural grants.”

When you take all the costs and all the benefits into consideration, are stadiums worth it? The Bloomberg editorial, in a review of various economic-impact studies on the question of stadiums, concludes:

(a) stadiums don’t have a long-term impact on economic growth

(b) cost overruns are typical, costing taxpayers 40 percent more than advertised

(c) in some cases, taxpayers are still paying off debt incurred on stadiums that have been demolished to make way for new and more expensive stadiums

(d) the number of jobs created by a stadium ranges from 0 to 1,000, with the number more likely to be the former than the latter

(e) the jobs a stadium creates are likely to be low-wage, part-time, and seasonal

(f) building a new stadium might actually destroy jobs by diverting money from purposes that are more economically productive

(g) a stadium, far from increasing regional wages, may reduce them

(h) a stadium may revitalize one small footprint within a metropolitan area, but at a cost that far exceeds what policy makers would have to spend had they taken a different path (jobs from a new stadium in Baltimore $125,000 a piece; those from other programs cost $6,000)

The editorial concludes with some sensible observations:

(1) All costs of a stadium should be made known to the public, broken down by category of subsidies

(2) governments should bargain hard, increasing as much as possible the portion paid by the team/league

(3) any deal the government makes should make maximum use of surcharges on tickets as well as other arrangements that use fees directly related to the project, rather than taxes

(4) the project should be put to a public vote.

Commenting on that article, Richard Rider suggests that teams be required to post performance bonds to cover overruns. That strikes me as the last that public officials can do.