Coast Resident Questions Money Spent To Attract Saints To Coast

Jeff Smith is a retired Lockheed Martin Employee. You might call him a watchdog over taxpayers dollars. Smith says he was appalled when he found out the state had funded half of a $90,000 study concerning a possible stadium for the Saints in Mississippi.

"I don't think it's a proper role of government to use taxpayers funds to finance private industry, and professional sports is a private industry," Smith said. "If they can't market that product without having the taxpayers subsidizing a large portion of their operating expenses, then they should get out of the business."

Smith feels so strongly about the issue he recently wrote a letter to the editor expressing his opinion in a local newspaper.

"If Mr. Benson or other sports owners want to do that study, then they should pay for it," he said.

But local tourism leaders say that attracting industries to the coast simply costs money.

"Ninety thousand dollars is a lot to spend, but if it tells us we should go ahead with it, it could be a huge financial boost to the economy," tourism bureau President Bill Lady said. "If that study wasn't done, we might not have any shot at getting that facility built here."

However Smith questions whether spending taxpayer dollars on helping any private industry is even legal.

"The data is tainted and slanted in the direction to enhance the project, but even if in my opinion that it did provide all of these benefits, it still needs to be looked at is it legal under the constitution of the state of Mississippi," Smith said.

He says in a state facing major budget shortfalls, spending any amount of money to build a stadium would not be a smart move.

Hancock County Tourism leaders say if the stadium doesn't end up being built in South Mississippi, the information gathered from the study could be used to entice another type of building project to the Coast.

State leaders have said once the study is completed, the information collected will not be released to the general public.