The Price Of Home Team Pride

Prestige -- that's what owners of National Football League teams are selling to cities around the country. And they have plenty of eager buyers willing to make sweetheart deals.

Maryland taxpayers spent $223 million for the Ravens' new home. And Cleveland is now building a $283 million stadium to bring football back.

But the agreement that Connecticut's governor cut to get the Patriots to move to Hartford, well, critics say, for the team owner, it is the sweetest deal of all.

Just recently, the governor made it official, signing the offer Patriots' owner Robert Kraft wouldn't want to refuse.

Kraft gets all the revenue from food, parking, and other concessions, a guarantee of up to $13 million a year for unsold skyboxes, and free rent for 30 years.

On top of that, Kraft pays nothing for construction. That will be paid for by $375 million in taxpayer-financed bonds.

Governor John Rowland says the costs will be covered. "The ticket tax that we re putting on the tickets for all the participants will pay off the bonds over the next 30 years," Rowland said.

Hartford's Mayor Mike Peters envisions city streets paved with tourist dollars and the stadium as an anchor for a convention center and hotel - a way to bring jobs and people back to this forgotten city between New York and Boston.

"Things are going to happen around that stadium that will be phenomenal for the business people downtown. There's going to be new life and a new feeling downtown," Peters said.

But Smith College Professor Andrew Zimbalist, who studies the economic impact of stadiums, says the football stadium will not contribute to economic development by itself or with the convention center.

He says research shows sports teams generate no new tax revenue, and, at best, only a few new jobs.

"When you build a football stadium for $500 million, at the very least, it costs you $250,000 to $300,000 to create one job," said Zimbalist.

In Baltimore's Camden Yards, the new stadiums for baseball's Orioles and football's Ravens are successful. But the neighborhood surrounding them is still waiting for a business bonanza.

If these stadiums are magnets for development, we haven't seen it yet, said Jon Morgan, who covers sports business for the Baltimore Sun.

"You don't see companies moving in," he added. "That actually makes sense when you think about it. Between those two stadiums they are open only 91 times per year for about three hours."

But that doesn't seem to matter back in Connecticut.

"If we do not generate one job out of all of this, it's still worth doing because of the spirit and enthusiasm and the impact it has on the culture of that city," said Rowland.

And taxpayers across the country seem to agree. When given a choice, voters have approved the majority of stadium deals -- paying dearly just to buy a little hometown pride.

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