It's the shiny new toy in the league. New stadiums are such a priority for owners that it's a critical piece of the labor negotiations taking place with the players' union. A major reason owners resent the 60 percent cut of revenue that goes to players is because it's not easy to finance stadium projects. They want a restructured agreement so "we can make the kinds of investments that grow this game," Goodell says, bemoaning the fact that no new construction has started since 2006.
But how much growth does the league need? It already generates an estimated $8 billion, and owners get the first $1 billion off the top. If you really love the NFL - and I do - you have to wonder if the billionizing of the league is really good for it. The average cost of attending a game for a family of four is $412.64. At Cowboys Stadium, it's a staggering $758.58. That's what the league calls growth.
Don't get me wrong: The Super Bowl can be electrifying for a community, and can be priceless in civic pride. Disclosure: I'm from Fort Worth, and I spent the week down there rooting for it to be a success. Cowboys Stadium is a gorgeous structure with some grand qualities, and Roger Staubach, who lobbied for the game, is a lovely guy.
But in the end, this Super Bowl taught me a lesson: Luxury can actually be debasing. The last great building binge in the NFL was from 1995 through 2003, when 21 stadiums were built or refurbished in order to create more luxury boxes, at cost of $6.4 billion. Know how much of that the public paid for? $4.4 billion. Why are we giving 32 rich guys that kind of money, just to prey on us at the box office and concessions? The Dallas deal should be the last of its kind.
When an owner grows tired of a facility and leaves, guess who picks up the tab? New Jersey still owes $110 million on the old Meadowlands home of the New York Giants and Jets, and when both teams moved to their new $1.6 billion, privately financed stadium, they got a huge tax break. According to the Wall Street Journal under their old agreement they paid $20 million a year in tax revenues; now they will pay only about $6 million a year. Know what New Jersey's deficit is? I'll tell you: $36 billion.
At its best the NFL is a deeply embedded piece of American culture, with an indissoluble bond with fans. But it's grown far removed from the grass-roots recreation it started as, the competitive emblem of mill towns, and their enormous civic resilience. As fans, we share blame for being willing to pay anything for it. We've allowed league owners to cash in on American pride, and hunger for entertainment. We should insist they share American economic problems.