It’s become a rally cry for many on the right and left to curb the proliferation of fancy stadiums over the last two decades thanks to generous subsidies. That continued over the weekend in a nearly-20 minute segment delivered by HBO funnyman John Oliver on stadium financing during this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
“Teams are so successful in pushing for upgrading stadiums that since the 1990s, we’ve had a replacement rate of over 90 percent,” Oliver says, as a flock of billionaire team owners across the country reportedly nodded approvingly with glee.
Oliver set his sights on several teams, but the initial punching bag on the segment was Mike Ilitch and the Red Wings deal. He highlighted the optics of the state agreeing to give $283 million to the project, only about a week after Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
“Two years ago, Detroit got approval to spend $280 million in taxpayer money on a new arena project for the Red Wings, just six days after the city filed for bankruptcy — even though the Red Wings owner is Mike Ilitch, the founder of the Little Caesars pizza chain, who’s worth an estimated $5.1 billion,” Oliver says. “That’s a little hard to swallow.”
If you still want to brush up on how this deal came about, the main piece from MT's 13,000-word cover story package from May 2014 is available here.