Local News

Guilford-Forsyth Stadium Vote: A Shot Heard Round the State?

Posted May 5, 1998

— To the west of the Triangle, baseball has struck out. Voters in Forsyth and Guilford counties voted down a food and ticket tax to be used to build a new stadium that would have been used to lure the Minnesota Twins to the Triad.

In Forsyth County, 59% of voters opposed the referendum. Two out of every three votes in bordering Guilford County also went against the stadium tax.

The "no" votes may echo across the state, especially in areas where planners have dreams of adding big league sports.

Charlotte may be one example, the Triangle, another. Many people say that if a public vote had been taken on whether to build the arena now under construction in Raleigh, the project would have failed.

Economists say voters, as a rule, simply don't like spending money on sports. In the Triad, voters were asked if they wanted to pay a one percent sales tax on prepared foods in order to pay for an arena.

But the Triad is no exception to any rule. Elsewhere in the country, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and Pittsburgh, voters also rejected tax dollars for sports development proposals.

North Carolina State University economist MIke Walden says there's a reason for this trend.

"If you look at who really benefits big-time in terms of the dollars and cents, it's going to be the owners, it's going to be the players, and it's going to be perhaps the retailers around the stadium," says Walden. "I think the voters are therefore asking 'what's in it for me?, generally in an economic sense. Sure, I may like to go see baseball, but shouldn't these folks, who are benefiting in terms of the big bucks actually put up the money for the stadium?' So I think that's really the conclusion you can draw from these recent votes."

Raleigh's entertainment and sports arena did not go to a public vote, but there are already many questions about construction delays, cost over-runs, and long term viability. Economists say if any of those issues come before the public in Raleigh, officials may not like the response.

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