Time will tell, but Rhode Islanders should keep a healthy eye, over the next couple of decades, on whether we dodged a bullet when we declined to bear financial risk for the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium. Eric Boehm’s report from New Jersey gives reason to expect that it will prove to be so:
Taxpayers spent more than $18 million to build the stadium that would eventually be named Campbell’s Field, as part of a minor league ballpark-building frenzy across New Jersey that saw similar stadiums erected in Newark, Atlantic City, and Somerset—all part of redevelopment schemes that attracted independent minor league teams (that is, minor league teams not affiliated with the Major League Baseball farm system).
Less than two decades later, taxpayers in New Jersey will pay another $1 million to tear down Campbell’s Field. …
Camden’s not the only city to dump a ton of money into a minor (or major) league ballpark under the guise of economic development, only to see the project become a fiscal black hole. The minor league teams that moved into Newark and Atlantic City around the same time as the Riversharks started playing in Camden have met similar fates. The Atlantic City Surf survived for 11 years before going bankrupt and the Newark Bears folded in 2014. Their riverfront stadium in downtown Newark is also set to be demolished less than 20 years after it was built.
Yes, maybe it looks bad that Rhode Island is losing its icons and blocking new development, but that negative appearance doesn’t justify making risky deals.