The Money Pit

Money Pit © Harold Davis

Money Pit © Harold Davis

This is a photo of the renovation construction at California Memorial Stadium, the football arena associated with UC Berkeley. The cost for this controversial project is upwards of three hundred million dollars. Besides seismic retrofitting, the construction will add gym facilities for the near-professional athletes, a media viewing area, and—most importantly—spacious decks with all kinds of amenities for rich sponsors.

There is something very wrong with this picture. Financing is being cut for elementary education in California. The regents have no choice but to raise the tuition for University of California students so that many of them can no longer afford it.

These same regents can afford a fancy stadium, manifested right now as this expensive hole in the ground.

It is unclear to me that near-professional athletics belong at any university, but if even if it has its place this expenditure represents misplaced priorities for a public educational insitution. I know football fans won’t appreciate what I am saying, but we live in a society that somehow has swapped what should be the education budget with the defence budget. It is time to remember that our greatest asset as a society is our people. We should be investing in people and their educations, not in luxury grandstands or expensive military hardware.

The great economist John Maynard Keynes once commented regarding the gold standard that we might as well bury cash money, then pay people to dig it up. In the spirit of Lord Keynes, I suppose that the Memorial Stadium money pit does have some beneficial impact on the economy—but wouldn’t the University of California do better by fixing anything dangerous (I can see the justification for earthquake retrofitting), then spending the rest of the money on education?

What do you think about this? Am I right? Am I wrong? If so, add a comment and tell me why.

This entry was posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area.


  1. fafield August 18, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Harold — You are spot on correct. In a generation or a generation and a half, the state of California has gone from the premier state for public education to fall someplace in the lower third of the states (primary and secondary education). While it is a capital improvement, sinking money into stadium renovations while academic programs at UC continue to slide speaks spades about the real priorities and callousness of the Regents and University leadership. But, how are these priorities any different from those of the legislature? Together, a very sad statement about the future of the golden state. Frank

  2. Chuck_D August 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi Harold,

    No, I don’t think you are wrong. We are going through a similar thing here in Fresno where they are installing a new, artificial turf field at Fresno State at the cost of millions. Yet, they’ve cut faculty, staff, classes, raised tuition and fees (even if the kids today are paying less the I did back in the 70’s). It seems as if more and more rules are being changed in the middle of the game.

    Personally, I think it’s sad that we put more emphasis on sports and war, then we do on education, programs for the elderly, disabled and poor. Not everyone who is below the poverty line is there by choice.


  3. wjlovitt August 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I suspect that the cost of a retrofit made the cost of a new stadium look good, but I think your point is valid nonetheless.

    Also, funding our Dept of Defense, which has been a Dept of Offense for 60 years, is the embodiment of digging a hole and filling it up. Staggering amounts spent on equipping for imaginary wars while somehow not equipping for the “wars” we do get into. From a former Marine who’s fed up.


  4. Robert W. August 19, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    I’m in 100% agreement with you and would add that the extravagant expenditures for sports programs extend to high schools as well. We live in a country where a significant portion of the population rails against gay marraige, new taxes, and helping the poor, but doesn’t believe that education in the U.S. should be a priority. Football is more important to them than the future of our country.

  5. Harold Davis September 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    The idea that private money is financing this boon-doggle is pretty much el poo-poo del toro, as you can read in this recent New York Times article on the difficulties in financing the stadium.

  6. dilys September 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi . . .

    You should live in Texas where football is king . I never will get over wondering what might have been discovered already and what may be lost forever because we put football ahead of science or math. How many kids would stay in school if we put that money into computer access, art classes, science labs, music programs, trips to see where history was made. Why does so much money get spent on . . . entertainment?? We’re going to entertain our way right into disaster. Our schools get worse and worse because the people who actually know something about education are not in charge. People like your regents are in charge and what they are looking at is money and power and position instead of education and building for the future. And I am not singling out your regents, ours are probably worse. There is always money for football while science labs and libraries go unfunded. Enough to make you weep for things that go on in the world that seem to have no end to them, no way to make changes without as much money as the alumni who want to relive their glory days on and off the field. And that glory was not anything educational I am sure.

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