This paper identifies the pervasiveness, magnitude, and trends of public investment in major league sports facilities and describes the forces that typically direct and dictate the debate. In 2003 dollars, the total investment in facilities currently being used by franchises in the four major leagues in North America is almost $24 billion, of which over $15 billion was contributed by public entities. Four eras of funding these facilities are identified and described: the Gestation Era 1961-1969; the Public Subsidy Era 1970-1984; the Transitional (Public-Private Partnership) Era 1985-1994; and the Fully-Loaded (Private-Public Partnership) Era post 1994. There is a consistent trend of private contributions increasing across these eras, but public sector contributions remain substantial. The final section of the paper discusses the four primary sources of momentum undergirding this public investment: owner leverage, the community power structure, the stimulus of increasing costs, and the competitive balance rationale.
J.L. Crompton and T. Var are with the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University. D.R. Howard is with the Department of Marketing, University of Oregon.