How much might the NFL draft cost Chicago?

Given how new stadium deals tend to work out for cities, will the NFL draft lead to a similar outcome in Chicago?

Choose Chicago, the nonprofit, quasi-governmental tourism board that brokered the deal, has not released details on proposed spending, nor does it have to. The outfit does claim that no tax dollars will be spent and says sponsorships and donations will cover the costs. Plus, they say the event will provide another opportunity to show Chicago off to the world.

Allen Sanderson, a University of Chicago economist who studies sports, is doubtful of the purported benefits, and so are we. “We’re going to be paying for the right to have this party in our own backyard,” he told the Tribune…

The NFL is a linebacker that has sacked cities (and doctors who speak out about player concussions). We would hate to see Chicago get its bell rung, too. Despite broad assurances from Choose Chicago, we deserve to know how much this shindig might cost before the league turns the city into a temporary backdrop for its TV extravaganza.

Perhaps the real details will be released years down the road when people don’t care as much. Additionally, even if the NFL Draft doesn’t require any tax dollars, will there be conclusive proof that it was a net economic gain as opposed to a drain (compared to other possible events that could have been held, the drawbacks of closing down streets and parks for the event, etc.)?

Infrastructure improvements needed but the will is lacking

The hidden backbone of any community is its infrastructure: the roads, sewers, electricity lines, and more that make the basics of life possible. But it appears that there might be a perception issue among Americans: even though there are a number of experts calling for infrastructure improvements (read The Infrastructurist for more information), Americans either don’t see it is a priority or don’t want to commit extra money to projects (I’ve moved around some of the text from the article):

Infrastructure spending in the U.S. stands at 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product – half what it was in 1960 — compared with approximately 9 percent in China and 5 percent for Europe, according to the government report.

“During recessions it is common for state and local governments to cut back on capital projects — such as building schools, roads and parks — in order to meet balanced budget requirements,” the report concluded. “However, the need for improved and expanded infrastructure is just as great during a downturn as it is during a boom.”

“My sense is things have changed,” said Andrew Goetz, a University of Denver professor and an expert on transportation policy. “People now tend to see any project as a waste of money, and that’s just wrong.”

“I call it the Bridge to Nowhere syndrome,” he added. “High-profile projects get publicized and they become a symbol for any infrastructure project that’s out there, and even the ones that are justified get tarnished by the same charge.”

So how can the negative perception of infrastructure be changed? I don’t think many people would argue that it is unnecessary (particularly if it affects their personal travel or services) but there are stories of cost overruns, delays, and projects that seem unnecessary. This should be thought of as a social problem – and the American public needs some convincing, particularly in lean economic times.