Gordon Monson: The best reason to hope Ryan and Ashley Smith get an NHL team and the Millers get an MLB team? It benefits you.

Economists agree that stadium subsidies are rarely worth the cost. But The Trib columnist has his own argument.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Los Angeles Kings fans celebrate the Kings 4-3 win in overtime, in Hockey action between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings, at the Delta Center, on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023.

As they say it so sincerely and smoothly down south: Trust me on this, all y’all. It can be a great, great thing for darn near everybody around here, even sports fans who don’t know yet that they are sports fans.

Ryan and Ashley Smith want an NHL team in Utah, either to build one through expansion or to swipe away some other team from some other community, much the way the Miller family wants an MLB club, an expansion team, in Salt Lake City. In both cases, I’m all for it.

Let’s get it done.

There are cautions and arguments against such projects, usually from people who are concerned about how much public funding will be called upon to … yeah, get it done, to get new arenas and ballparks built.

Constructing new venues is expensive. That’s obvious to everyone. And sports teams, their owners, find varying ways to get money for those arenas and stadiums. According to a report in Econofact, shares of costs covered by public funds to the erecting of new arenas and stadiums have been steadily declining “from close to 100 percent in the 1970s to an estimated median share of 44.2 percent in the 2010s.”

In varying cases, the public money requests differ, and some are much greater than others. Collection of taxes to address the costs can be shaded in different ways, from “tourist taxes” to something called “Tax Increment Financing,” which often are called TIFs. The aforementioned report states that “TIFs can take a variety of forms, but the basic structure is that the city declares a special tax district surrounding the stadium and adjacent streets, sometimes with a radius of a mile or more. The city then uses the tax revenue collected within this district to finance the debt service on a stadium bond that is issued.”

We can argue over details, such as where the possible new venues should be located — and we already have — and whether the build of new stadiums, with the associated taxes, on the gross generates more tax money from businesses moving into the district or whether, while that specific money grows, revenue from taxes from businesses formerly outside the district now lessens.

Those specifics are yet to be fleshed out, at least out in the open, in each of the aforementioned bids.

Economists with big brains have studied this stuff, and, frankly, most agree the bang is rarely worth the buck. As one recent study put it: “economists consistently found that stadiums created no ‘measurable economic impact.’”

But what about a cultural impact?

One of the reasons pro sports teams can make demands for public money is because so many communities want those pro sports teams and are willing to sacrifice funds for them. Specific interests are going to make bank by way of luring in those franchises, and that’s a given. But garnering those teams is hard to do on account of the fact that top pro leagues don’t expand all that often. These are rare opportunities. Currently there are 32 NHL teams, 30 Major League Baseball teams. And metros like Salt Lake City, and numerous others, want to add to those totals in their areas.

Why? Well, as written above, the Smiths and the Millers, were they granted teams here, aren’t going to great lengths, as they presently are, to lose money. There will be more than a little something in it for them and their companies through profits made by the team, the arena or ballpark, and development projects around those buildings. Good for them.

What’s good for the community are the collective benefits, the rooting interests, the unification of a sometimes splintered citizenry in joining together for a common cause, the competition, the fun. That’s right … fun.

The Jazz have mostly succeeded in bringing together a state divided by college rivalries, divided by culture, divided by religion, divided by politics. Rarely at the Delta Center during a Jazz game does anyone care whether the dude or dudette sitting next to him or her leans to the right or to the left, whether he or she is a churchgoer, whether he or she drinks a beer or a milkshake. What matters is what the team they jointly cheer for is doing on the court, whether the ball at the Jazz’s end is going through the hoop. If it is, high-fives all around.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A fan holds up a sign during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Delta Center in December.

That’s worth more than what some curmudgeons who are not sports fans might admit. It increases the quality of life in a community — unless you’re a Coyotes, Commanders or Panthers or — dare we say it? — an Athletics’ fan. Even those teams could potentially begin a rise that fans would celebrate.

Look at what’s happening right now in the NFL in Kansas City and Baltimore and San Francisco and even Detroit. You think those cities and the people who live in and around them aren’t getting a major kick out of their teams’ successes? They are. And that’s cool. And that’s the best pro sports can do — bring a town, a state, a region together. Even teams that don’t win it all, but that are run well — hello, Jazz fans — stir excitement and happiness to their communities.

If you haven’t been to an NHL game, you can anticipate, if the Smiths get one here, the electricity that’s often in the arenas, especially in places that care, like Montreal and Philly and Boston and Vegas and Denver and Seattle. Playoff hockey is completely off the charts. If you’ve never gotten into hockey, but you’re an avid sports fan in Utah, you will or you would — if the awarded franchise does it right.

Baseball? You kidding me? Think about Utah summer nights at the ballpark in the Power District, scarfing tube steaks, watching Salt Lake play the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Cubs. Holy Cow!

A cultural anthropologist once told me modern pro sports teams are like figurative representations of the feudal armies of the past, standing up in competition for their city-states, doing battle against other city-states, conjuring civic pride. All good, as long as folks don’t full-on go bananas over their passion. Everything in moderation, right?

The more pro sports teams there are in the Greater Salt Lake area, the better, the better the quality of life. The NBA? MLS? MLB? NHL? Get ‘em all in here. The NFL? OK, let’s not get too crazy. But that could happen one day, some day, too. If certain people get rich off it, all right then. As long as the community gets its emotional and competitive riches, and that sense of unity, out of watching well-run teams in all the leagues, whatever the leagues, it’s a cause worth supporting.