March 31, 2008, - 1:31 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
You’ve all read the stories about how this sports team or that sports franchise soaks a city for millions–even billions–for new stadiums, while holding a gun to the municipality’s head, threatening to move. It always results in more taxes paid by residents and higher fees to the less fortunate. And it always subsidizes the workplaces of millinaires (the players) and billionaires (the team owners).
But, now, it is the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) that is soaking taxpayers. The USOC–which is already subsidized by American taxpayers in millions of dollars due to 501(c)(3) status (so, it does not pay taxes on millions in revenue and profit) and gets other tax-paid earmarks for security and other costs–threatened to leave the city of Colorado Springs, unless it pays millions, $53 million to be exact, in new buildings, dorms, headquarters, etc. for the USOC. Yup, the USOC is taking the city hostage.
And Colorado Springs–unwilling to lose the USOC (which is not the city’s largest employer, the U.S. military is)–has reluctantly decided to pony up the $53 million package the USOC is demanding:
They are expected to provide the organization with offices in a new downtown building at the nominal fee of $1 a year.
At the end of a 25-year deal with the city and a local developer, the USOC would own the building.
That’s not all. Other incentives to keep the USOC in the Springs include a major face-lift of the USOC’s Olympic Training Center in the Springs, new offices for several Olympicrelated amateur sports groups and a skybridge to connect USOC offices to a parking garage.
The total package, with about half funded by the city and most of the rest by real estate company Land-Co Equity Partners, is worth about $53 million.
Paying this ransom is ridiculous. And Colorado Springs residents and you, the rest of the American taxpayer rolls, will foot the bill. The fact is that this decision by Colorado Springs does not occur in a vaccuum. Colorado Springs cannot make up the expenditure by merely raising taxes on residents, businesses, and workers. It will need to make up the expenditure in some way, for instance, by applying for more federal grants and loans in areas where it normally got less. Money is a fungible good, and it’s fungible-ing to wealthy sports execs and athletes with endorsement deals.
The fact is that the USOC is a very wealthy organization. It has billions in funds from exclusive sponsorships of the U.S. Olympic team, sales of USOC-emblazoned license plates (does your charity get to make money through license plates?), and other revenue sources. This is a profitable “charity.”
Worse, one of the expenditures, which Colorado Springs will now have to “spring” for is a state-of-th- art set of luxury dorms for Olympic athletes in training. But many of these are athletes with big endorsement deals, none of which they will have to pony up for their stay in the dorms or free training at Olympic facilities.
As a former sports agent for an Olympic athlete (and Silver Medalist in diving), I saw my client get thousands of dollars in monthly subsidies from the USOC for what was basically a subsidy of his chosen career. The same goes for this $53 million package for the rich USOC.
Do you get free new offices, living facilities, spa chef-made meals, and job-training paid for by the government?
Why should the USOC get this largesse, when it can well afford to pay for it on its own?
It’s one thing to root for Team USA. It’s entirely another to pay this kind of corporate welfare to those who can well afford to pay for it on their own.
Tags: amateur sports groups, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Debbie Schlussel, former sports agent, head, Land-Co Equity Partners, Olympic, Olympic athlete, real estate, sports franchise, U.S. military, U.S. Olympic Committee, United States, USD, USOC's Olympic Training Center, wealthy sports execs