About Bulls Markets

When it opened in 1994, the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, drew praise from policymakers, journalists, and academics—inside and outside Chicago—as a marvel of private entrepreneurship and corporate responsibility. Owners allegedly funded the stadium privately, signed a community benefits agreement that took into account the needs of longtime residents, and sparked the economic revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.

Using a wide array of sources—mapped census data, campaign contribution records, court documents, and tax records, to name a few—Bulls Markets argues that this story is mostly myth. Government subsidized a significant portion of the arena's cost through property tax breaks, the community benefits pact largely ignored public housing residents, and the arena's planning actually hindered local growth.

This book will interest anyone curious about Chicago politics, urban revitalization, economic inequality, or the history of the sports business.  


“Highly recommended….This excellent book contributes to the body of work confirming that publicly subsidized sports facilities are unwise investments for taxpayers….By telling the story of property tax breaks and other corporate welfare in building the United Center, Dinces reminds readers that their beloved sports teams will take advantage of an adoring public every time. The only thing left to figure out is why people allow it to happen again and again." —Choice (reviewed by Humberto Barreto, Noblitt Professor of Economics and Management, DePauw University)

“The role of sports teams in revitalizing cities is too often taken for granted by sportswriters and urban commentators alike. In Bulls Markets, Dinces does the invaluable work of taking a no-holds-barred look at what the Michael Jordan Bulls meant to Chicago—both economically and emotionally—to determine once and for all what the city gained from a championship team, and which segment of a changing city reaped these spoils.” —Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes and The Brooklyn Wars

Bulls Markets is a penetrating and provocative account of the role of Michael Jordan and the championship Bulls in Chicago’s cultural and economic development. Dinces brings together a wealth of interesting research that asks important questions about the role of sports in urban growth, spatial evolution, and social inequality. Dinces’s analysis will have resonance for the citizens and politicians in many cities and should be required reading for public servants contemplating investment in sports infrastructure.” —Andrew Zimbalist, Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics, Smith College, and author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup

Bulls Markets is a terrific book: fine sports history, of course, and excellent urban history. Dinces reveals how wealthy owners hijack our beloved teams, and how politicians and league cartels do the bidding of the rich. Drilling deep into the story of the Bulls and Chicago, Dinces shows us that sports are part of the larger transformation of contemporary cities. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this is an important book for anyone interested in urban history, politics, and economics.”
Elliott Gorn, Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History, Loyola University Chicago, and author of Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till

The book provides a fascinating case study of how private-public sports infrastructure projects are done.”—Canadian Journal of Urban Research (reviewed by Duane Rockerbie, Professor of Economics, University of Lethbridge)


North American Society for Sport History Book of the Year (Monograph) Award, 2019

Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS) Award for
Superior Achievement in Scholarly Publication, 2019
According to the ISHS press release, “Sean Dinces addresses a vital though usually overlooked question in our sports-obsessed nation: To what extent do publicly funded sports stadiums actually help local economies and taxpayers? Using both traditional and statistical…sources, Dinces demonstrates that in the case of Chicago, the results failed to match the promises. This book is an important contribution to Illinois history and the debate over publicly financed sporting venues nationally. As Dinces notes, the financing and tax rebate structures enabling construction of the United Center should be of profound concern, not just to Chicagoans, but to America at large….This exceptionally well researched and challenging book…deserves the attention of every serious fan of professional sports.”