Under an obscure Florida law, stadiums that take taxpayer subsidies must serve as homeless shelters on the nights when they are not hosting events. With more than 50,000 residents living on the streets, Florida has the nation’s third-largest homeless population, giving the 18 stadiums that take taxpayer subsidies the opportunity to provide a valuable, and necessary, public good.
But according to two Florida Republicans, the stadiums aren’t holding up their end of the deal. Despite taking more than $271 million in subsidies since Miami’s Dolphins Stadium opened in 1994, the facilities aren’t serving the homeless on off nights, and legislation filed by Sen. Mike Bennett (R) and Rep. Frank Artiles (R) would force the stadiums to refund the tax money if they haven’t complied with the law, the Miami Herald reports:
Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) and Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) have filed bills that would require stadiums to return money to the state if they have not been complying with the homeless shelter law.
“These organizations have failed to follow the law for over 20 years,” said Artiles, in a statement .”This is the simply the State of Florida holding them accountable.”
Of the $271 million taken since 1994, Miami’s Dolphins Stadium ($37 million) and the city of Jacksonville ($35.1 million) have received the most money. The state’s three NFL venues have taken more than $102.1 million from the state over that time, while its two NBA arenas have taken roughly $35.3 million since 1998. Florida’s 10 spring training facilities, used by Major League Baseball teams for less than two months a year, have taken a total of $37.5 million since 2001, and other stadiums have also taken subsidies, as shown in this chart from the Miami Herald:
While the stadiums take massive subsides, homelessness, particularly among children, has continually increased in Florida since the recession began, and it remains a problem even as the economy inches toward recovery. Bennett and Artiles’ bills, should they become law, would change that, forcing the stadiums to do their part in helping the state’s neediest residents.