John C. Fisher can thank Baby Boomers before they started aging for making him wealthy.
The serious coin they dropped over the years at Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic allowed his parents that founded Gap to amass a lot of wealth.
That fortune was the linchpin to Fisher being worth $2.2 billion today.
His name may not ring a bell, but he is one of a long list of billionaires that benefit from what some call corporate welfare via tax subsidies designed to, first and foremost, make them richer.
Fisher is the majority owner of the Oakland A’s.
The same Oakland A’s that plan to become the Las Vegas A’s courtesy of a promised $500 million infusion by Sin City’s local government.
It’s not that the City of Oakland wasn’t playing ball with Fisher.
They just wouldn’t pony up enough in tax freebies to build a stadium-commercial complex on the waterfront Oakland that would have made Fisher even more immensely rich .
The new stadium in Las Vegas is supposed to cost $1.5 billion with the City of Las Vegas picking up $500 million of the tab.
Major League Baseball, of course, is on board, because it means more money for them as well.
Given the source of Vegas municipal wealth is gambling, perhaps this means Major League Baseball will finally forgive Pete Rose.
If the pious MLB is so worried about the potential impacts sports gambling can have on its “hallowed game” they might want to explain why it is a wise move to send teams dominated by young players in their 20s to Vegas to work?
This, of course, is not your grandfather’s Major League Baseball.
It’s all about the money, or more precisely, is all about making more and more money.
The MLB was worried about losing fan interest for televised games so they came up with the pitch clock to shorten game times this season.
But when team owners feared shorter games would put a crimp in beer sales — the ones that go for $10 plus a cup — many dropped that ban on beer sales past the seventh inning.
The ban supposedly was in place out of concern for rowdiness and the safety of folks making their way home after the game.
But per usual, the real motivation was money first, fans second.
In the world of unsubsidized billionaires, that works because of small businesses, the ones that survive and thrive put their customers first, which — if done right — means the money then flows.
Let’s be clear on two points.
First, by modern-day standards, the Oakland Coliseum is not only a relic but it is in a state of deterioration as plumbing issues and such attest to.
Second, that still doesn’t mean Fisher and his partners couldn’t have made it work.
And by work, we’re talking the team.
The Oakland As, by anyone’s definition, have been on a downhill slide for years.
It is reflected in their record. And it is reflected in their attendance.
Modern facilities — as the billionaire baseball owners’ mantra goes — are the key to packing a stadium or at least outdrawing the Sacramento River Cats.
They like to talk about construction jobs, the economic ripple effect, as well as the small army of part-time seasonal jobs basically paying minimum wage they create so they can hawk $10 cups of beer at obscene margins.
The construction jobs are fleeting.
The cost, based on subsidies, for creating part-time seasonable minimum wage jobs is outrageous.
The economic ripple effect is a joke.
That’s because economists hired by the cities and billionaire developers dangling a professional sports team bauble in front of communities use a model to make such claims that is based in a large part on economic activity by those that go to and from games.
That means attendees are expected to drop serious coin at nearby restaurants after spending $149.03 for a family of four to attend a typical baseball game based on a study released last month.
That is based on the cheapest available tickets, a parking spot, two beers, two sodas and four hot dogs.
It also assumes the people attending would not be spending money dining out as such if they weren’t going to a baseball game.
Then there is the little detail of those 35-year projections that are used to show a city’s investment will indeed pan out.
They assume the franchise doesn’t start shaking down a city for a new stadium or arena after 20 years so they can keep up with the other billionairess that were able to leverage new stadiums out of their representative cities.
The exception for a franchise staying put in the same stadium with minimum upgrades over the course a “deal” is the Oakland A’s and, of course, the Oakland Raiders.
As such, they show the rosy projections for the promised economic bliss that comes from massive public investment in professional sports facilities for being what they really are — unrealistic.
Billionaires like Fisher can keep finding cities who help line his pocket because they sell hype and emotion.
A major pro sports team puts a city on the map, or so we’re told.
In reality, it’s the cities that put major pro sports teams on the map.
They can’t play without venues.
They can’t make obscenely high profits without someone subsidizing the risk for them to build venues.
The taxpayers of cities are convenient pasties.
And even if it actually doesn’t divert tax dollars from pressing needs and has a modest return on a city’s investment, is it really worth the energy and collateral issues?
How many stadium studies do you think factor in wear and tear on the transportation infrastructure, traffic congestion they create that can have negative impacts on other concerns, greenhouse gas emission and such?
The bottom line are most cities are in the hunt for pro sports franchises for their collective ego.
The billionaire owners know it.
Say what you want about Oakland, but clearly they weren’t willing to cross a line that — in the case of their city — would have sweetened Fisher’s pockets on the back of other taxpayers.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org