School versus stadium

Illustration by Chris Kindred.

Eric Pollitt
Guest Contributor 

What should Richmond spend its money on, a new baseball stadium or the city’s children?

For the past couple of years, Richmond City Council and Dwight Jones have discussed plans for a new baseball stadium. Part of the reason why the Braves, a AAA organization, is no longer located in Richmond is because of a lack of modern facilities.

While Richmond is planning to publically subsidize a new baseball stadium, the city has overlooked the idea of building a new high school for 50 years. The lack of quality public education raises concerns for students who enjoy the downtown lifestyle, and would like to stay in Richmond City long-term.

The average spending per pupil in 2012 was around $12,500, according to the Richmond City Public School budget. The Richmond City Public School system is ranked dead last out of 131 school divisions in on-time graduation rates statewide, according to a CBS 6 report. As jaw dropping as these statistics are, education spending has consistently increased with no real results of improvement for Richmond Public Schools.

Students observing the plans for a new baseball stadium recognize the failure in leadership to address the city’s long-term problem of our dysfunctional school system. Students decide not to stay in Richmond for too long and begin moving out of the city, even if they have a job here. They follow the example of young families and move out to the neighboring counties for better education systems. Public funding for the baseball stadium does nothing to improve the public education issue.

According to building a new stadium will not increase the team’s horrible audience turnout of about 6,500 a game. While this is best in the Eastern League, the Diamond holds a maximum capacity of 12,000 seats. The Flying Squirrels cover seats on the the top rows of the upper deck with advertising banners, reducing seating capacity to 9,560. The Flying Squirrels’ audience turnout reaches only half of the Diamond’s capacity, which shouldn’t warrant a new stadium.

Government subsidized sports spending always underestimates the cost of the facility and overestimates the economic impact. Whenever a public project takes place, the projected costs are always underestimated. The government does not spend money efficiently. 

The exaggeration of the economic impact happens because of the substitution effect. The substitution effect shows that the projected spending impact claims additional money is being spent in the city because of the stadium, but in reality the money would have been spent by consumers at a restaurant or movie. Whenever the government spends money on sports complexes, it always costs the taxpayers more.

Fifty years is long enough without a new public high school. If the Flying Squirrels were so great and attendance reached beyond max capacity, why doesn’t the team send out a letter in the mail asking for small donation instead of taking public money? The Flying Squirrels need the city, but the city doesn’t need them or a dead last school system that is driving out families. This display of incompetence to not fix the education system and instead prioritize subsidizing the squirrels is an embarrassment. 

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