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Who pays for all Pokémon Gyms?

It takes a lot to keep a Pokemon Gym running. Even the most modest gym in a small podunk town like Pewter City or Dewford Town must have significant overhead. Public facilities require maintenance and utilities like water and electricity, as well as staff that must be paid. Some gymnasiums have also undergone costly renovations, either to better match the personality of a new leader or when its leader changed type, such as Olivine Gym in the Johto area. At the very least, someone is paying for all those fancy gym badges we’ve been collecting for all these years, but who? It’s time to dive into everyone’s favorite topic: Pokemon economics.

It’s safe to assume that most Pokemon Gym leaders earn a pretty meager salary. For some, running a Pokemon Gym feels more like a side hustle than a full-time job. This is especially true for the gym leaders of Unova City, who spend their days working in restaurants and libraries, owning mountain businesses (or whatever Clay does), and being mayor. Even if leaders only earn minimum wage, most gyms employ at least a few other trainers as well as, say, janitors, administrators, and gardeners. All of this after initial construction costs, which in some cases, like the Opelucid Gym complex, have been mostly extravagant. So who pays for all this?


In real life, at least in the hypercapitalist United States, stadiums and arenas are funded from public sources. Building new sports venues is subsidized by the government, which means your taxes pay for them. It may be the same in the Pokemon world, but we know very little about Pokemon region governments. The only evidence that governance even exists is the immigration office in Alola, and of course, the free health care Pokemon receive at every Pokemon Center. This free healthcare means it’s safe to assume that the US isn’t the best analogue.

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It seems more likely that Gyms are paid for and maintained by the Pokemon League, but that raises even more questions. While Championship Battles tend to attract large audiences, your typical Gym Battle (outside of Galar) does not. It’s possible for each league to generate revenue from high profile tournaments and then transfer those funds to each gym in the area, but a model like this would require entry prices to be astronomical. Imagine if every time you went to watch your favorite football team, your ticket paid for the running costs of every team in the conference. It seems unlikely to me.

Another possibility is that each gym is supported by the fees the coaches pay when they challenge the leader and lose. Until Gen 4, coaches would lose half the money in their wallet to their opponent when they lost. This system apparently left too much room for loopholes (just leave your wallet in a bush or something), so Gen 4 and beyond moved to a scaling system based on your badge count and your Higher level Pokemon. This could explain why small town gyms are generally smaller, as younger coaches with fewer badges are more likely to start there, so these small gyms have lower incomes. On the other hand, the scale of many big city gyms makes it seem unlikely that they can survive on loser fees alone. A place like Mossdeep Gym could use ten trainers a day and it still wouldn’t earn enough to keep half a dozen trainers employed and several miles of moving walkways usable. Not without some sort of subsidy.

It’s unethical, but it’s possible that Pokemon labor accounts for the vast majority of a Pokemon Gym’s overhead. In the anime, Fighting-type Pokémon like Machamp and Gurdurr are known to work in construction, while Electric-type Pokémon have been used to power buildings, such as in Team Rocket’s hideout under Mahogany Town. It’s easy to imagine how Pokemon could provide all the services a Pokemon Gym might need, from construction to electricity, heating, running water, gardening, and even housekeeping. If Mr. Mime can keep Ash’s house tidy, multiple Mr. Mime can keep a clean gym.

It’s not only conceivable that Loser Fees pay employee salaries while Pokemon Labor takes care of the rest – that’s the most logical conclusion. Team Rocket is reviled for exploiting the work of Pokemon, but your favorite gym leader – and the league as a whole – is likely complicit in some level of abuse as well. If you needed further proof that Team Plasma were the real heroes all along, this is it.

Next: Revisiting Kanto: The Cerulean City is Surprisingly Soulless


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