(Image: Warren Kulo/GulfLive.com)
On Wednesday, the owners of the Southern League reportedly voted to allow the Huntsville Stars – i.e., the AA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers – to move to Biloxi, Mississippi. The Stars have called Huntsville home since 1985 and have been part of the Brewers farm system for 15 years. The 2014 season will be the team’s swansong in Alabama.
While I’m sure Biloxi is a lovely town with many enthusiastic baseball fans, they are being poorly served by local public officials. In a move that is as unsurprising as it is insufferable, the Stars’ (or whatever they end up being called) new stadium will be built with public funds. I’ve written previously about the contemptible tradition of sports teams in general and Brewers minor league teams in particular building stadiums with corporate welfare. The financing scheme for Biloxi’s 7,000-seat stadium was actually announced several months ago, and it somehow manages to be even more sleazy than usual:
Mississippi committed $15 million of BP oil spill money to pay for part of the $35 million project. The rest of the project will be paid through $21 million bond.
As you may recall, the Gulf Coast region of the U.S., which includes Biloxi, was devastated by the BP oil spill of 2010. As part of a 2012 settlement of a federal class action lawsuit, BP has paid out close to $4 billion to compensate individuals and businesses for their losses.
How can funding a baseball stadium be considered compensating victims of an oil spill?
It’s bad enough that the citizens of Biloxi are on the hook for $20+ million to build a stadium many of them will never use. Using money meant for victims of a manmade disaster is simply indefensible.
Coincidentally, BP recently won an appeal that stops some payments under the 2012 settlement from being paid. BP appealed the settlement because they contended some parties who were seeking compensation did not actually sustain losses as a result of the 2010 spill. If the state of Mississippi is using settlement money to build a minor league baseball stadium, it would appear that BP’s appeal had some merit, no?
Public financing for sports venues is business as usual, so it’s surely too much to expect that my team and its affiliates would be above this kind of rubbish. But the fact that the Stars will benefit from such a brazen misappropriation of funds is especially disappointing.