What does it cost to play Monopoly in the nosebleed seats?Last year, the average Twins ticket cost $20.68 – but as Minnesotans havelearned over the last fifteen years, playing Monopoly costs a great deal morethan that.

We've had an intensive education over the last fifteen yearsin the business of professional sports. In the fall of 1993, the North Starsleft town. In 1995, the City of Minneapolispurchased the Target Center. That same year,the Twins commenced what would become over a decade of lobbying efforts, endingfinally with $392 million in local subsidies for a facility expected to openfor the 2010 season. In 2000, professional hockey returned to Minnesota with the construction of the XcelArena for the Wild, again financed primarily with public capital.

The public participation isn't about sports. Stadiumdiscussions start with topics such as sight lines, the given sport'straditions, and general claims about economic activity associated with arenas.By the end, the tone shifts to focus on the generation of revenue streams, howmuch is distributed to the team franchise, and how much the team's value willappreciate with a new facility. Frequently, the specter of the team's potentialrelocation to another part of the country is invoked.

Last week, the Vikings franchise leadership addressed acash-strapped and deeply anxious public to lambast Governor Pawlenty andsuggest that a new football stadium deserves to be a top legislative prioritythis session. The proposed investment for state taxpayers is $700 million outof a nearly $1 billion monument. Predictably (see the previous paragraph),calls for subsidies are now coupled with threats of relocation.

Minnesotans pay a hefty ticket price via subsidies, whetheror not they patronize games. Isn't this part of living in a vibrant community? Indeed,we fund purposes such as arts, roads, and schools that we don't all use inequal measure. The fundamental difference is that the costs we pay as acommunity to host professional sports are distorted by the professional leagues'preferred treatment as monopolies. We pay via ticket prices – and particularlythrough subsidies – for a service whose actual market value is substantiallyless than what is "charged" in these two forms. As scores of economists have observed in recent years, and the WallStreet Journal noted last month, rarely do the subsidies produce economicbenefits promised by stadium subsidy advocates.

Leagues are allowed by statute or case law to severelyrestrict the number of franchises and the number of communities allowed to hostthem. As in any monopoly, the limited supply of the product forces a higherprice than would be available under open competition.

At the end of the day – or in the ninth inning, thirdperiod, or fourth quarter – the professional sports market needs to be reopenedfor trade. Investors must have the ability to establish teams in markets theybelieve are promising, and the monopoly must be broken to restore a healthymarket for the professional sports product. When Congress removes the monopoly protectionafforded sports, banned in other industries, the prices we pay viapublic subsidies will fall.

In the meantime, we continue to pay increasing rents on theproperties we pass in our ongoing game of Monopoly.