I was chatting with a friend who is a professor at UC Berkeley [not in the CS department and not Barsky] and he mentioned that the state government, though claiming to be too poor to pay for academics within the University of California system, had recently spent over $450 million on a football stadium renovation. I searched and found this Wall Street Journal article. It turns out that the total cost is $474 million. To make the numbers seem less alarming, the university is pretending that the “training facility” is separate, but in fact it is “nestled right up against the stadium” according to my friend and he added “Originally, the training facility/gym/tutoring center was only intended to serve the football team. The rules were later relaxed to allow in the basketball team, and perhaps a few high visiblity sports. Certainly, normal students are not allowed anywhere near the place.”
The WSJ says that the school has raised just $31 million in donations for the project (unclear how much of that money might have been given to UC Berkeley regardless). My mole at the school says that the football program has never made money (WSJ confirms that the university had to kick in $88.4 million in taxpayer funds from 2003 through 2011) and that certainly the $474 million will be paid for by tuition and tax dollars. Wikipedia says that the cost of making the historic stadium, pre-renovation, earthquake-safe, would have been $14 million (shortly after this post was published, someone edited the Wikipedia article to add a zero to this figure, making it appear that the 1998 study (actually from 1997) estimated earthquake-proofing the stadium at $140 million).
The best thing that one can say about the $474 million stadium renovation is that it makes the state’s $327 million web site seem like a bargain.
[Note: even the Chinese, smart enough to keep their public schools open (unlike Chicago!), can't figure out how not to lose a lot of money on sports stadiums. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_National_Stadium says that the Beijing Olympic Stadium cost $457 million in 2012 dollars and is mostly a white elephant at this point (though profitable on a operating basis due to people coming and paying to see its unique architecture).]