Maryland politicians really have their hands full as the legislative session draws to a close. Instead of focusing on their state’s looming long-term budget crisis, the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Martin O’Malley spent yesterday working on a far more important issue: authorizing the use of public resources to seize and operate the Preakness Stakes.
The owner of the Preakness and its Pimlico race track, Magna Entertainment, is currently in federal bankruptcy. Last week, a Baltimore Sun editorial compared the oh-so-dire situation to the 1984 Baltimore Colts’ move to Indianapolis (in part precipitated by the city’s threat of eminent domain condemnation), when the city attempted and failed to seize the team through eminent domain a day after it had already left for Indiana.
The presumption seems to be that municipalities and states are somehow entitled to their sports teams and facilities, regardless of current ownership and market conditions, and that spending public money on such ventures is beneficial to the local economy. But one need only look at neighboring Washington, DC’s ongoing depressing experience with the billion dollar Nationals Park/Navy Yard debacle to get a handle on how ridiculous this line of thought is. Unfortunately, given the current “stimulus” culture, this probably won’t be the last time a government decides to initiate eminent domain or subsidize development for the purpose of “saving sports.”