HERE'S THE THING about stadiums: They're built to last, like the Roman Colosseum or the L.A. Coliseum. But here's the other thing about stadiums: In the last quarter-century, we keep building new ones on the taxpayers' dime, because cash-cow owners keep convincing cash-strapped cities they'll go elsewhere if we don't.
Here's your latest stadium/arena scorecard:
Every new building, of course, came at some public expense.
America specializes in welfare handouts to millionaires. It's nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you're Jerry Jones or Zygy Wilf.
The latest, greatest example of civic insanity comes from Atlanta, home of the Georgia Dome and the NFL Falcons.
The Georgia Dome, a perfectly suitable facility built entirely with public money in 1992 and renovated partly with state funds in 2007, will be replaced by a new stadium in 2017 that could cost taxpayers $500 million.
This was approved by Atlanta's city council earlier this year in a city that's running in the red.
There's no money for roads, schools, libraries or new transit, but there's always tax dollars lying around to build a gleaming new sports palace to replace the other gleaming almost-new sports palace we haven't finished paying for.
Elsewhere in America Gone Sports Mad, Kevin Johnson is a hero in Sacramento because he saved the NBA Kings with a new arena deal. Imagine the hero the NBA-star-turned-mayor might be if he saved the kids.
(Column Intermission: It appears that my college-bound jock stepson, Isaiah Eisendorf, may be Ivy League material. Of course, no athletic scholarships there - and it's an expensive ticket - but I have discovered a key delineation between stepfather and father: I'm not on the hook for his college tuition. So, c'mon, Harvard, give us a call! Yo, Yale, drop a dime on my stepboy! He's a two-sport bargain! Woo-hoo!!!)
In Los Angeles - where downtown is a mishmash of decades-overdue development and vacant lots - the feckless town criers are still trying to okay an NFL stadium. The thing is, public spaces should connect neighborhoods and community; dropping a football stadium in downtown L.A. is like plopping a motor home in your front yard.
Again and again, the old argument is: New stadiums and arenas create jobs and build the economy. But it's been proven, again and again, that these new sports palaces do little for long-term growth.
Yes, local sports franchises are a source of civic pride. But we are societally ill if we continue to divert precious resources into sports at the expense of greater municipal needs.