Taxpayer Fields Forever

Apparently, the Washington, D.C. mayor’s office and city council are still deliberating over a sponsor name for the new home of the Nationals. In Indianapolis, plans for a new football stadium for the Indianapolis Colts are just getting off the ground. That stadium too would presumably need a name.

As officials for both city's go fishing for corporate sponsors, I think I have a better idea:

Why not name either or both stadiums "Taxpayers’ Field?"

Now, I realize Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and the city council may not be eager to draw more attention to the publicly-financed portion of the stadium deal, particularly after having to twist so many arms to get it passed--especially now that we’ve learned the complex will cost some $46 million more than originally projected.

Likewise, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson would probably rather we didn't focus on the fact that the pricetag of his publicly-financed stadium jumped $187 million above the cost he publicly announced, or that --20 years later -- central Indiana residents are still being charged the food tax put in place to fund the RCA Dome, which the new stadium is supposed to replace.

But time and again we’ve seen stadiums sell naming rights to corporate sponsors, essentially selling over a city’s cherished identity for a few more bucks in the public coffers. See the venerable Hoosier Dome’s conversion to the "RCA Dome," or Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium’s switch to "CINergy Field."

Just this once, why not recognize and show some appreciation for what will be each stadium's biggest contributor?

"Taxpayers’ Field" would be particularly apt in Washington. More than any other city, Washington, D.C.’s lifeblood is the American taxpayer. The federal government is the city’s biggest employer. Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court all set up shop there.

Every federal taxpayer dollar runs through U.S. Treasury, then on to the appropriate federal agency -- most all in Washington -- before it’s spent, swallowed by bureaucracy or returned back to the states. Washington D.C.’s economy is wholly dependent on taxpayers, just as Pittsburgh’s was once on steel, New York’s on finance, or Las Vegas’ on entertainment and games of chance.

It seems only appropriate to honor the laborers (taxpayers) in Washington’s number one industry (government) in the home and spirit of its baseball team.

There are other reasons to like "Taxpayers’ Field," too.

First, for either city, a "Taxpayers’ Field" would jam a needed thumb in the eye of Big Sports, an industry that’s made a habit of blackmailing loyal hometown fans and public officials into lucrative tax breaks, new stadiums every half-dozen years, and sweetheart corporate welfare packages.

In Indianapolis, for example, the city will have to break its lease with the Colts to tear down the RCA Dome. Guess what? There's a clause that says the city owes the team $48 million for breaking the lease! So not only do Indy residents have to foot the bill for a new stadium, they have to pay the Colts to tear down the old stadium so they can pay for the new stadium the Colts are demanding. Kafka couldn't write this stuff.

A "Taxpayers' Stadium" would amount to a mild act of populist civil disobedience -- not exactly the Boston Tea Party, but a very American, if understated, insurrection against the sports barons and the politicians who serve them.

Second, the name would be unique in all of sports (provided only one of the two cities adopted it). Do we really want to spend our summer afternoons at another "Enron Field," "Now-Defunct-Dot-Com Park," or "Federally-Bailed-Out Airline Stadium?" I don’t. Why not be different? The old-time stadiums were named after community pillars, veterans and soldiers, or the team itself. This one time, why not name a stadium after the poor sap who's perpetually asked to cough up more money for his government to spend?

"Taxpayer Field" is a name every fan would have a stake in. It would remind each ticket holder that he helped build the place. It would immediately create a sense of community among everyone in attendance. We all do pay taxes, don’t we?

Finally, in Washington, "Taxpayers’ Field" would serve not only those of us critical of the excesses of government, but also those agitating for D.C. voting rights. "Taxpayers’ Field" would symbolically sit in the heart of a city whose residents pay federal taxes, but have no say in how they’re spent. To make this happen, I’d even be willing to tolerate an asterisk by the name. "Taxpayers’* Field," it could say, with a footnote to read, "without representation."

Let all of the string-pulling politicians from other states sitting in first baseline box seats walk under that sign each April through September.

So how about it? Why not let everyone who attends a baseball game in Washington, D.C. or a football game in Indianapolis know who really made it possible?

Radley Balko maintains a Weblog at:

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