John Oliver (Last Week Tonight)

John Oliver demolishes America’s obsession with sports stadiums: “Coked-up Willy Wonka” arenas aren’t worth billions of tax dollars

The "Last Week Tonight" host found that $12 billion was spent on facilities between 2000 and 2010

Colin Gorenstein
July 13, 2015 5:52PM (UTC)

You don't have to hate sports to understand that American cities are spending way too much money on sports stadiums. Take, for example, "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver. The self-proclaimed sports enthusiast who has, on more than one occasion, cried while watching coaches in sports movies delivering "inspirational" speeches, used his Sunday program to urge those in power to stop using taxpayer money on excessively posh stadiums. Or, "coked-up Willy Wonka" stadiums, rather.

The "vast majority," of stadiums are made using public money, the "Last Week Tonight" host uncovered in his 19-minute segment, pointing to a 2012 report which stated: “$12 billion [was] spent on the 51 new facilities opened between 2000 and 2010.”


And what did that money go toward, specifically? Snakeskin seats, swimming pools -- you know, the essentials.

The "Last Week Tonight" host had a particularly hard time wrapping his head around was the Detroit Red Wings, owned by Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch, which somehow  managed to get the city to cough up $280 million six days after it had filed for bankruptcy.

"That’s a little hard to swallow," Oliver said. "Sure, not as hard to swallow as a Little Caesar's crazy bread with an assortment of Caesar Dips -- but still pretty hard."

Watch the clip courtesy of HBO below:

Colin Gorenstein

Colin Gorenstein is Salon's assistant editor of internet and viral content. Follow @colingorenstein or email

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