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Black Church and Climate Advocates: Stop All Publicly Funded Stadium Deals

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In the wake of a contentious D.C. sports arena deal and a failed sales tax vote in Kansas City, advocates caution that cities should re-evaluate commitments to such agreements

WASHINGTON - TelAve -- BLACK CHURCH & CLIMATE ADVOCATES: STOP ALL PUBLICLY FUNDED STADIUM DEALS

In the wake of a contentious D.C. sports arena deal and a failed sales tax vote in Kansas City, advocates caution that cities should re-evaluate commitments to such agreements

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, Reverend William H. Lamar IV, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan A.M.E. Church and other leaders warned that recent maneuvering over the location of the combined pro-sports arena currently located in downtown Washington, D.C. did not take critical environmental justice, climate crisis and vulnerable community impacts into consideration. They also praised this week's overwhelming decision by Jackson County, Missouri voters not to approve a sales tax that would have subsidized new dual stadium projects in Kansas City. While they applaud the recent decision by the City of Alexandria and various members of the Virginia state legislature not to build a new multi-purpose stadium on the banks of a Potomac River where flooding aggravated by climate crisis worsens, advocates expressed concern that various political and business parties involved ignore the environmental, climate, and economic consequences of such a deal on vulnerable Black and Brown communities in the District/Maryland/Virginia region. For example, at a time when the District of Columbia faces high crime rates, major public health impacts from rising urban heat island effects each year, and the burden of unaffordable housing on marginalized populations, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city's council managed to lure the D.C. sports complex back with $515 million in guarantees and other incentives.

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Heavy negotiating over the recently fumbled deal in the "DMV" region represents the national resurgence of professional sports teams pushing financially-strapped governments to endorse – and pay for – new sports stadiums. New plans for stadium reconstruction have been announced in Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and elsewhere. Taxpayers are likely to bear the brunt of that cost – perhaps except Kansas City where voters rejected that.  As non-partisan research publication EconoFact found: "Between 1970 and 2020, state and local governments devoted approximately $33 billion in public funds to construct major-league sports venues in the United States and Canada." Yet, studies on publicly funded stadiums show there is no return on that investment.

"We're not opposed to stadiums, we're simply opposed to publicly funded stadiums, especially the ones that are an economic drain and environmental burden on the communities around them," said Rev. Dr. Jon Robinson, Senior Program Director at Metropolitan A.M.E. "The ideal stadium is a mix of the 100 percent privately financed SoFi stadium in Los Angeles and the 100 percent clean-energy powered Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas where we watched the nation's first carbon-free Super Bowl this year."

"Cities should mandate that sports facilities don't contribute to heat and flooding especially of adjacent Black and Brown lower income neighborhoods," said Rev. Lamar. "They can achieve this by requiring equitable use of smart surfaces strategies such as full tree planting, full use of reflective roofing and sidewalks along with full use of porous pavements and bioretention techniques. That improves the communities these structures dominate – while employing historically marginalized community workers and businesses. These complexes could be transformed into true quality-of-life enhancement opportunities for the underserved."

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Advocates such as Lamar and Robinson recommend stadium projects be totally financed by teams, and that builders must ensure the structures are not devastating the local environment or becoming a public health hazard to surrounding residents. In addition, as is the case with Allegiant stadium, state and local governments, along with sports leagues, should require all new stadiums to be decarbonized structures that are also powered by clean energy such as solar and wind, with inclusion of reflective roofing and trees to reduce dangerous heat impacts. Every effort should be made to not only hire locally, but to provide training, workforce development and small business opportunities for underserved Black and Brown residential populations.

Source: Metropolitan AME Church

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