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UCF Economist Questions Public Funding for Orlando City Soccer Stadium

Professor Mark Soskin says the City of Orlando won't recoup any of its investment in the new Orlando City SC stadium. Let's just say we have a few issues with his argument.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, there is little doubt that Orlando City SC will have its own new stadium in 2016. The papers are signed, designs are submitted, and construction is underway.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't those left with concerns.

Enter Mark Soskin, an economist at the University of Central Florida. It's his position that public funding for Orlando City's new soccer stadium is a poor investment for the state. From the WFTV story:

University of Central Florida economist Mark Soskin said he believes Orlando's new soccer stadium will not bring in any new money to the state because the people who spend money at the venue will be people who already live in the area.

"There isn't an economist, legitimate economist, in the world that would say there is a dollar benefit from such sports facilities. It would be better to take the money and put it in the ground."

I have a bit of a problem with his overly simplistic take.

To imply that the only possible value of building a soccer stadium is in the direct dollar value of the revenue that it brings in from outside the city is outrageous.

Why do cities build public parks? Why does Orlando spend millions each year on city beautification projects? Why does the city subsidize museums and theaters?

To be a truly world-class city and attract corporations, tourists, and highly skilled workers, Orlando must offer cultural value. Professional sports teams can be a major aspect of that. The numerous indirect benefits to the city make it absurd to suggest that the new stadium will be a bad investment only because the direct cash revenues won't equal the financial investment.

Is there an argument to be made that even considering the indirect benefits, public funding for privately owned sports franchises is inappropriate? Of course. However, this is not the argument Soskin presents, and it's bordering on disingenuous of the academic to make his point in such a way.

Further, Soskin goes on to say:

"We're the only country that does this. Even Canada, with franchises and pro leagues, have the billionaire owners paying it all."

That would be an interesting point if it wasn't completely untrue. The NHL's Edmonton Oilers have a new arena under construction that was built with significant public funding. Similarly, the MTS Centre, which hosts the Winnipeg Jets, received public funding as well. Even Manchester City's Ethiad Stadium in Manchester received some £127 million in public funding.

In closing, there certainly is a debate to be had about the wisdom of public funding for professional sports stadiums. While there are countless indirect and intangible benefits to the city and its residents, the money spent is rarely directly recouped.

However, Soskin blatantly ignores both sides of that argument in basing his position solely on the projected direct revenue of the stadium. Further, he presents information that is simply untrue to support his argument.

My advice to Dr. Soskin? As an academic and purported authority on economic issues, it's his responsibility to take the time to research and fully understand the matter at hand and get his facts straight before he volunteers his opinion.

Do better, Mark.