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Grade 9-12

Sports Economics: To Build or Not to Build

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: February 8 2019,
Author: Mike Raymer


Students will be able to:

  • Explain how government uses the power of taxation to redistribute income.
  • Define opportunity cost as the next best alternative given up when individuals, businesses, and governments confront scarcity by making choices.

In this economics lesson, students will examine a public-private partnership to learn about opportunity cost.



Begin the lesson by asking students to list an NFL team, the name of the owner(s) of that team, and the name of the stadium where that team plays its home games. Find the list of NFL owners at Find the list of stadiums at

Ask students to guess the approximate cost of building an NFL stadium. Also, ask who typically pays for stadium construction.

Instruct students to visit NFL Stadiums Ranked by Seating Capacity and ask them to compare the cost of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to other NFL stadiums on the list. This is the second highest cost, $1.6 billion, after MetLife Stadium in New York, $1.79 billion. Tell students that the majority owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team is Arthur Blank, one of the founders of Home Depot. Tell students that Mr. Blank purchased majority ownership of the team in 2004 and currently has a net worth of approximately $4.3 billion.


Open the PowerPoint Slides. Display the slide about Merecedes-Benz Stadium and tell students that Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank partnered with the city of Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center to construct a new state-of-the-art, retractable-roof facility (Mercedes-Benz Stadium) that opened for business in August, 2017.

Explain to students that they will be examining many of the costs and benefits associated with building Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, GA.

Display the next slide: $1.6 Billion Dollars and tell students that the cost of Mercedes-Benz Stadium came in at $1.6 billion. Compare that cost to the items listed so students can get an idea of how much $1.6 billion is worth compared to other familiar goods and services.

Explain to students that an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made. Ask students to examine the slide: $1.6 Billion Dollars and determine the opportunity cost of spending $1.6 billion to build Mercedes–Benz Stadium. (Answers will vary but should include one, and one only, option listed. Example, student A could say the opportunity cost of building the stadium is the 9,142,857 Air Jordan XXXIII’s given up, while student B might say the opportunity cost of building the stadium is the 46,784 Tesla Model 3’s given up.)

Ask students who should have paid to build Mercedes-Benz Stadium? (Answers will vary but may include, Arthur Blank, the Falcons, anyone else that may use it in the future.)

Ask students if they think the government (City of Atlanta and/or State of Georgia) should have paid for some, or all, of the costs of the stadium’s construction? (Answers will vary.)

Ask students to make a list of potential benefits the City of Atlanta and/or State of Georgia could gain by paying the cost of the stadium’s construction. (Answers may include, increased tax revenues generated from events held at the stadium, job creation associated with stadium construction, income from renting the stadium out for events.)

Ask students to make a list of potential costs the City of Atlanta and/or State of Georgia could incur by paying the cost of the stadium’s construction. (Answers may include, the direct cost of stadium construction, the opportunity cost of not being able to spend that money on other worthy projects and programs, the cost of maintaining the stadium once it is built.)

Group Activity

Give each student a copy of activity 1 For It or Against It? and tell them that they will be hearing from 12 individuals who have differing opinions about the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Inform students that these are hypothetical statements that might have been made during public hearings prior to the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and that this part of lesson takes place prior to stadium construction)

Distribute each of the activity 2 To Build, or Not to Build slips to 12 students. Have each student stand and read their slip to the rest of the class one at a time. As each slip is being read, students should fill in the appropriate information on Activity 1, Part A.

Individual Activity

Once all 12 slips have been read ask each student to answer all questions in Activity 1, Part B.  Discuss student answers.


Have the students complete an exit ticket that states, “Something new I learned about public-private partnerships today is…”.


Activity 1

Select one essay option from the list below.

  1. Write a 300 word essay supporting the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium using a public-private partnership model. List three possible economic benefits that will result from the construction of the stadium.
  2. Write a 300 word essay opposing the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium using a public-private partnership model. List three possible economic reasons why you think the construction of the stadium does not make economic sense.