Larry Lucchino, switch hitter on ballpark subsidies

To get subsidized stadium for Worcester team

Larry Lucchino — master of flexibility
  • Larry Lucchino — master of flexibility

Remember when Larry Lucchino and John Moores said that a fat ballpark subsidy for a team owned by a mega-millionaire was a civic good — something akin to godliness and cleanliness?

After getting San Diego taxpayers to line Moores’ pockets to the tune of a billion dollars, Lucchino went on to Boston, where he was president of the Red Sox. However, the owners didn’t want a subsidy and poured their own bucks into old Fenway Park. Lucchino suddenly changed his stripes, and his tune: Fans “get annoyed when teams get taxpayers to build a stadium, and then raise ticket and concessions prices for the very people who paid for it,” he told the Wall Street Journal. That’s precisely what the Padres had done in San Diego. The Red Sox would rehabilitate the old field without taking “a dime of public money,” boasted Lucchino.

Then the Red Sox sank in the standings and Lucchino was out as president. But he became a part owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston farm team. Right away, Lucchino and his confreres began fishing for a public subsidy to move the team to Providence. But that didn’t work out, so on Friday (August 17), the Pawtucket team announced that it would be moving to Worcester, Massachusetts, which would build it a new ballpark.

The team would seemingly get a juicier subsidy from Worcester. According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the cost of the ballpark will be $86 million to $90 million. The city will borrow the money to pay for it. By contrast, the last offer from Pawtucket was the team paying $45 million of the $83 million project, and being responsible for cost overruns. The state would finance the remaining $38 millions through bonds, according to boston.com.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


It’s difficult to fault some for following the owner’s instructions (Red Sox) or whichever team he represents.

With that said, I disagree with the whole premise that taxpayers, through their representatives approval, should subsidize any sports team. No matter how much or little wealth ownership has.

Unfortunately competitive sports are woven very deeply into our culture and at a very young age. In fact, sports are subsidized by governments who pay for the building and maintenance of recreational fields and other facilities.

Worse, rather than camaraderie and fellowship of sports, today it’s driven by the ever growing desire for unimaginable wealth. Today’s professional athletes are paid ridiculous salaries and huge sums of cash for endorsement deals. Such a situation was recently described by an young athlete who stated he’d live on his endorsement earning and pocket his entire thirty million dollar signing bonus. $30 million bonus! For the sake of whoever is paying that kind of money, let hope he’s no Ryan Leaf.

If taxpayers are willing to spend millions to subsidize multimillionaire owners and players, so they can pay to see them play a game, then it’s difficult to understand and empathize with their whining about dilapidated roads and non existent services.

JustWondereing: Excellent points. However, I have no problem with schools or municipalities paying for tennis and basketball courts, football and soccer fields, swimming pools and the like for young people. They need the exercise. I don't mind money going to college athletics, although so many big schools, including San Diego State, spend entirely too much on athletics and too little on education.

You are correct on pro sports. There is no reason on earth why a city and/or state should pay for a billionaire's stadium. That's especially true for metro areas such as San Diego, where the infrastructure, neighborhoods, libraries, etc are woefully underfunded. Best, Don Bauder

You’ll get no argument from me some about kids needing exercise whatsoever. However, I believe it’s the parents’ responsibility, not the school’s and certainly not government.

Our son loved youth baseball from TeeBall all the way through his varsity high school team, and played summer travel ball too. There were no illusions about pro ball, though two of his close friends play in the minor leagues today.

These days, without prompting, he says it’s some of the best childhood memories and he still sees some of his baseball pals. We were fortunate he never got “hooked” on mindless video games, or pointless narcissistic social media.

We both agree San Diego dodged a bullet when it came to the Chargers, and hundreds of millions that would have been poured down the Spanos drain supporting a mediocre franchise. But I’m just wondering, aren’t we headed in the same direction with the re-development of the stadium site. Won’t the taxpayers end up footing the bill in bond costs if SDSU gets the site?

JustWondering: Taxpayers will certainly foot the bill for the proposed SDSU project. But with the exception of the ripping down of the stadium and replacing it with a smaller stadium (a truly bad idea), and the creation of some otiose administrative jobs (the bane of education), this is a project that should enhance higher education. Education has the same effect of wise capital spending projects; it builds the community for the long run.

I believe that providing soccer and Little League fields, along with tennis courts and basketball facilities, is a legitimate function of government. How many parents have the funds to build a Little League field or create a tennis court for everyone? Best, Don Bauder

Lucchino was doing the bidding of the boss when with the Padres. Later on, he was actually being intellectually honest when the WSJ quoted him. However, if he wants to have a career in baseball--not as a player of course--he has to play the game the way it is played now. That means shopping for the best deal the team can extort from a host city.

As JW has described above, all this mis-allocation of resources is a cultural phenomenon. Cultures do evolve, and I see the beginnings of a change in the role and place of sports. Everyone needs physical activity, and sports are a great way to achieve that. But now we see these spectator sports appealing to those who don't engage at all. Universities that proclaim themselves to be temples of knowledge still have to field winning teams in football and hoops, lest they lose the link with alumni. If the tide is turning, it will not recede much within my lifetime, but the trend looks good.

Visduh: I have to disagree with you here. Before he came to San Diego, Lucchino led a successful effort in Baltimore to get a massive stadium subsidy. So he knew the screw-the-taxpayers game when he arrived in San Diego. That's probably why Moores was attracted to him. Best, Don Bauder

The cost of Camden Yards was $225 million, including $100 million for land acquisition and $125 million for the stadium. Under the terms of thire lease, the Orioles pay the stadium authority varying percentages of ticket sales, stadium advertising revenues, parking revenues, concessions sales and suite and club-level revenues that amount to about $10.5 million a year. Thru fiscal year 2017, the stadium authority has recieved about $265 million from the Orioles. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Petco cost something in the neighborhood of HALF A BILLION? And the Padres allegedly threw in about $150 million of that. I wonder how much the city gets per year from the Padres? Aren't San Diego taxpayers still on the hook for something like $250 million in reimbursements for city obligations used to pay for Petco? Seems like Baltimore probably made out better than San Diego

danfogel: Taxpayers paid roughly $300 million of Petco. Most San Diegans think the story ended there. Not so. The city also gave Moores ballpark district land for early 1990s prices -- very cheap. Moores sold the land to developers and possibly raked in $1 billion in the process. So in measuring what the city gave Moores, you have to look at the cheap land. He probably left San Diego with an additional billion dollars in his wallet. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, right, but how much are San Diego taxpayers STILL on the hook for was the question. Matt Potter wrote a story a couple of years ago in which he claimed that tax payers could end up paying upwards of $250 million.I believe this came from the state killing redevelopment and Department of Finance ruling San Diego’s redevelopment program couldn’t pay the city’s Petco Park debts. As I recall, the city sued the Department of Finance and the city lost in court. So what was sold as being more or less self-sustaining ended up being a burden on the taxpayers of San Diego. So again, my question is how much if that $250 million that the city expected the redevelopment agency to pay has been stuck on the taxpayers. Matt Potter reported it at around $250 million, if I remember correctly, but I have also read that ir would be in the range of $170 million, if the city refinanced the debt.

danfogel: I don't know what is owed now. Matt, who did an excellent job on the article you cite, is probably in the best position to know what is owed now. These subsidized pro sports stadiums are seldom, if ever, self-sustaining, but the promoters keep trotting out the fallacious argument. Voters don't seem to understand -- or, more likely, don't WANT to understand. Best, Don Bauder

Sometimes I feel my formal education was otiose when you flex your vocabulary.

JustWondering: I am getting so old I can't flex anything else, so it might as well be my vocabulary. Best, Don Bauder

Ok...this is off topic, but I couldn’t resist because it seems the world is just nuts....

“The University of Akron is dropping 80 academic programs while investing millions into new eSports facilities on the Ohio campus. The school is dropping 10 Ph.D. programs, 33 master’s programs, 20 bachelor’s programs, and 17 associate-degree programs, freeing up resources to build “the largest amount of dedicated esports space of any university in the world to date.” Five inaugural varsity teams will compete this fall in the video games including League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

When was sitting on your ass, pushing buttons to a video game with predisposed outcome considered sport? If this is a growing trend and not just a passing fad, I foresee bleakness in the not to distant future.

JustWondering: That is absolutely hideous. LeBron James gave Akron schools a bundle of money to further the education of underprivileged young people. Then the university, if this is accurate, turns around and chops academic programs to finance esports -- that is, teach young people who to play video games.

This is so preposterous that I would check to see if this is an urban legend. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder From the article I read:

"The University of Akron is shedding 80 degree programs, many of which have had few or no degrees awarded in recent years."

"The programs — including bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and a master’s degree in history — represent about 20 percent of the total number offered. But fewer than 5 percent of UA students were enrolled in the programs last year"

They are also adding to programs in cybersecurity, criminal justice and emergency services, polymer and chemical sciences, health and biosciences, performing arts, digital communications, business, law and education.

There won't be any faculty reductions and students in the affected programs will be able to finish their degrees.

danfogel: That makes it sound better. But dropping programs in physics and history? Those are basic. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, Yes, one could say that having no bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics could be considered missing basic programs, but maybe no so much for eliminating masters and PhD programs in history. At what point do universities decide that programs with very low participation rates be eliminated and those resources reallocated to others programs that are more in demand. And don't forget that Kent State is less than 20 miles away, so there is an option for those interested in areas that are being eliminated. I have yet to find the article which was quoted in the comment above, but I did find this:

"The program will be housed in the Williams Honors College, and Wilson said a space there has already been identified. Total costs aren’t yet available, but he estimated they could be between $50,000 and $75,000. The university is working to raise private funds to support that. The goal is to also create an esports arena at the Bounce location in Akron."


danfogel: Poor Akron. I used to cover it as a journalist when it had Goodyear, Firestone, and Goodrich, the main ones. This was in the 1960s and early 1970s. The downtown was rather rundown but the economy was healthy. Then Firestone, after a series of blunders, was acquired by Bridgestone, and Goodrich moved out of town. Goodyear broke ground for a new headquarters in 2011. I don't know how losing those headquarters affected the university. Best, Don Bauder


“Embracing esports allows the university to continue attracting top students while providing an innovative pathway for students to flourish academically, socially and professionally,” Matthew J. Wilson, Akron’s president, said in an announcement.

‘...Top student to flourish academically....’ If that ain’t a crock of feces, I don’t know what is.

Hmmm. Perhaps it is just me and my bad eyes, but I fail to see anything in this article indicating that the University is" investing millions into new eSports facilities on the Ohio campus“, which is what you wrote: "The University of Akron is dropping 80 academic programs while investing millions into new eSports facilities on the Ohio campus."

danfogel: You and JustWondering can debate exactly what the university said. But in my opinion slashing academic offerings while enhancing esports is not a wise course for a university. Best, Don Bauder

JustWondering: I think a university putting such emphasis on esports -- at the expense of conventional education -- is pathetic. But of course I have not been a student in a university since 1960, so what do I know? Best, Don Bauder

Hmmm. An interesting though, especially when one considers that you apparently have not read even a single article on the subject. That is a lot of bravado for someone uninformed on the subject. I had read a few stories on this esports venture, not only at Akron but quite a few other schools as well, includeing schools like Ohio State, Miami University and Texas before the subject was bought up here. Hell, even UC Irvine and UC Berkeley Have them. Since the formation of the esports program was announced last year and UA is seeking private donations to cover costs, which are estimated to be anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000, I think it a pretty big stretch, at best, to correlate the announcement of the formation of an esports program in December with the announced phasing out of "conventional" education classes some 9 months later.

danfogel: Universities can be pretty coy at timing announcements so people won't connect dots. Best, Don Bauder

FALLOUT FROM THE WORCESTER DEAL. Now the owner of another Red Sox farm team, the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, has his hands out. "I want to make sure we can take advantage of any incentives that are available from the state," said the owner, according to fieldofschemes.com.

A Worcester journalist polled ten sports economists and sports economics experts. Nine said it was a bad deal. The tenth liked it. He had been in on the planning for the deal, according to fieldofschemes.com. Best, Don Bauder

Log in to comment

Skip Ad