“Details how owners . . . have shamelessly played cities against one another to get sweetheart deals for their stadiums.” —Sports Illustrated
Can a sports franchise “blackmail” a city into getting what it wants—a new stadium, say, or favorable leasing terms—by threatening to relocate? In 1982, the owners of the Chicago White Sox pledged to keep the team in Chicago if the city approved a $5-million tax-exempt bond to finance construction of luxury suites at Comiskey Park. The city council approved it. A few years later, when Comiskey Park was in need of renovation, the owners threatened to move the team to Florida unless a new stadium was built. A site was chosen near the old stadium, property condemned, residents evicted, and a new stadium built. “We had to make threats,” the owners said. “If we didn't have the threat of moving, we wouldn’t have gotten the deal.”
Sports is not a dominant industry in any city, this book points out, yet it receives the kind of attention one might expect to be lavished on major producers and employers. In Playing the Field, Charles Euchner examines the relationships between Los Angeles and the Raiders, Baltimore and the Colts and the Orioles, and Chicago and the White Sox, arguing that, in the absence of public standards for equitable arbitration between cities and teams, the sports industry has the ability to steer negotiations in a way that leaves cities vulnerable. He reveals what lies behind this leverage—and what that says about the urban political process.