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Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit, Revised and Expanded Edition [Paperback]

Neil deMause , Joanna Cagan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 2008
Field of Schemes is a play-by-play account of how the drive for new sports stadiums and arenas drains $2 billion a year from public treasuries for the sake of private profit. While the millionaires who own sports franchises have seen the value of their assets soar under this scheme, taxpayers, urban residents, and sports fans have all come out losers, forced to pay both higher taxes and higher ticket prices for seats that, thanks to the layers of luxury seating that typify new stadiums, usually offer a worse view of the action.
The stories in Field of Schemes, from Baltimore to Cleveland and Minneapolis to Seattle and dozens of places in between, tell of the sports-team owners who use their money and their political muscle to get their way, and of the stories of spirited local groups—like Detroit’s Tiger Stadium Fan Club and Boston’s Save Fenway Park!—that have fought to save the games we love and the public dollars our cities need.
This revised and expanded edition features the first comprehensive reporting on the recent stadium battles in Washington DC, New York City, and Boston as well as updates on how cities have fared with the first wave of new stadiums built in recent years.

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“A thoughtful and comprehensive examination of the curious issue of love and money in sport.”—Frank Deford, Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated and author of The Entitled
(Frank Deford)

"In exposing the template used by greedy owners and corrupt politicians, the authors have provided a great service for concerned public officials and fans who no longer have to sit in silence."—Christopher Keshock, NINE
(Christopher Keshock)

“Field of Schemes is a superb work of investigative reporting and righteous indignation. The fan pays twice: once for the stadium and again for the ticket to get into the stadium. If enough fans read it, we could break this cycle.”—Allen Barra, sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal and author of The Last Coach: A Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant
(Allen Barra)

“This is as crystal clear as it gets. Field of Schemes shows exactly how your tax dollars end up in the pockets of sports team owners and players in our fake democracy.”—Jim Bouton, author of Ball Four and Foul Ball
(Jim Bouton)

“A well-written and poignant analysis of America's stadium mess.”—Andrew Zimbalist, Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics, Smith College, and author of In the Best Interests of Baseball? The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig
(Andrew Zimbalist)

“If this book had been around for the Greeks to read, they would have learned that they should’ve billed Troy for the horse.”—Molly Ivins, newspaper columnist, political commentator, and best-selling author
(Molly Ivins)

About the Author

Neil deMause is a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes regularly for the Village Voice, Extra!, and Baseball Prospectus and runs the stadium-watch Web site
Joanna Cagan is a teacher and writer in New York City. She has written for numerous publications, including the Village Voice, the New York Times Magazine, and Interview.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory reading! Aug. 30 2010
This readable, impressively footnoted book explores the trend of pro sports team owners budding in line in front of other social infrastructure, demanding public money under threat of leaving to build their lavish venues. The book cites extensive studies which show sports teams merely displace other spending by consumers, which is fair enough in a capitalist system - but why the intricate corporate welfare scams? It's a tale of shareholder responsibility gone absolutely mad, of government-endorsed centralization of power and money which no one on the left or right should be able to stomach after considering the facts.

It's amazing, sickening and worst of all, follows an extremely predictable pattern, currently at play at most "aging" venues near you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory reading if you have a field of schemes in your backyard! April 24 2012
By Paul Krupin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We had a local baseball association try to get permission from the local school board to give them more than 50 percent of the school property for a baseball field expansion. The tactics in this book helped us persuade the school board not to decide in the associations favor. The decision and rationale for the decision is in the record and it makes it very difficult for any further consideration. Thank you!
4.0 out of 5 stars A Catharthis for the Abuses on the Public of Sports Team Owners Sept. 10 2014
By Roger D. Launius - Published on
Many writers have explored the subject of how owners of sports teams persuade, cajole, threaten or otherwise intimidate state and local governments into building them at public expense magnificent sporting arenas. This is a fine example of this genre of muckraking journalism. It focuses on the large number of sports specific arenas built at public expense around the nation in the 1980s and 1990s to the tune of some $1.5 billion dollars. Since this book first appeared in 1998, this trend has continued as virtually every major league city has been held up by owners for new stadiums and indoor arenas.

Like most journalism "Field of Schemes" is best in the specifics of telling stories of individual efforts to oppose efforts to build new sports complexes. It follows the stands made against the owners in such cities as Detroit, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Seattle. I should add that in every case a new stadium eventually was built with significant taxpayer involvement. The only small success in these fights was in San Francisco, where the Giants actually built the stadium but not before the city made many internal infrastructure improvements to the area.

The best part of the book is Cagan and deMause’s delination of the steps taken by the owners to obtain new stadiums. The playbook goes like this:
1. The Home Field Disadvantage: the assertion that the current stadium is so old and in such poor shape that it simply must be replaced.
2. Faking a Move: claiming that unless the situation in the local city is remedied the owner will have no choice but to move the team.
3. Leveling the Playing Field: claims that the team is unprofitable and cannot compete effectively without a new stadium to draw fans to the game and raise revenue.
4. Playing the Numbers: commissioning one or more reports that argue that investment in a new stadium will yield a tremendous return through the creation of jobs, rise of investment in business near the stadium, and the like.
5. The Two-Minute Warning: owners setting a deadline for a decision to build a new stadium or a move of the team to another city will take place.
6. Moving the Goalposts: As agreement seems to be reached, even sometimes when the agreement is already signed, the owner demands more concessions from the city; cost overruns, technological add-ons such a retractable roof, and the like.

As my father used to say, when someone robs my I want them to use a gun. Regardless, city after city has placated the whims of owners rather than employ the slogan from the Reagan anti-drug crusade, “Just Say No.”

It’s an interesting problem. This book is cathartic for those of us frustrated by billionaire owners sucking dry the local government, but doesn’t do much to resolve the problem. Cagan and deMause do offer two suggestions that I liked. First, force the leagues to allow public ownership of teams. The Green Bay Packers have been publicly owned by the city of Green Bay for decades and it has worked out quite well. But when Ray Kroc’s widow tried to give the San Diego Padres to the city, along with an operating trust, Major League Baseball prohibited it. Now that Donald Sterling is going to be forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise—good riddance Donald—why not allow the city to become majority owner?

Second, before any deal is to be done anyplace, anywhere, with any governmental entity, force the team in question to open its books for audit. Is it really losing money; is it really unable to compete? Don’t take what the owner says at face value. Make the franchise prove it. Until elected officials grow some backbone and stare down the owners the situation will not improve and ordinary Americans will continue to subsidize these activities even as our schools and our roads and bridges and other elements of our nation crumble around us.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will disgust you but it's well worth your while...if you're not outraged you've not read this book! May 15 2014
By Michael Turnbull - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a former avid sports fan I can say that my feeling for professional sports changed when "revenue streams" became part of the conversation. This is the first book I have read on the topic of public subsidies for stadia. I have lived long enough to not be surprised by much but the hypocrisy of the politicians is once again in the forefront of this issue.

And one would think that the "free market" billionaire owners of professional sports teams would reject feeding at the public trough as creeping socialism. It's simple selfish greed and the ease with which the politicians roll over is appalling.

I live in Minneapolis and so Art Rolnick of the Minneapolis Fed is our voice of reason...I'm so glad the authors reference his idea - just treat public subsidies as income and tax it accordingly. It is too late for Minneapolis, however, a new Vikings stadium was just approved last fall, even though legal prohibitions were in place to prevent public subsidies over $10 million.

I'm a bit exhausted by this book but the best thing is that it offers strategies and lessons to fight these "free market" parasites who own professional teams and to hold these political hypocrites accountable.
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking May 3 2014
By Frank Rizzo - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is shocking to read how much public money has been squandered in the pursuit of public funding to support billionaire team owners.
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear analysis of one aspect of the corruption of professional sports April 19 2014
By swimdb - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book details case by case how professional sports teams have fleeced and extorted taxpayers time and again in the U.S. and Canada. It does not address these issues overseas or even in Mexico.

If anything it gets a little tedious because they exhaustively document so many of these swindles but this adds a nice completeness to the story. Good read, important book.
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