Monday, August 8, 2011

Bogus stadium numbers

Back in March, I touched on some Florida and Arizona cities struggles with Spring Training stadiums and how to finance them. Now, the University of North Texas is unveiling a new stadium for the upcoming football season. Additional commentary can be found on Unfair Park's blog.

Bottom line, the stadium cost $79 million and supposedly, using the flawed multiplier effect, a $29 million annual economic impact is calculated. The odd thing is, the researcher, Micheal Seman, if I am not mistaken, would be the same Michael Seman that I went to school with, and really should know better, since we got into these same debates in some of the classes.

Sadly, this will not generate much, if any economic impact.

1) Sports stadiums do not generate new money, they generate a redirection of disposable income. People do not debate whether they will pay rent or go to a game, pay the electric bill or buy a ticket. So regionally speaking, there is little extra spending.

2) There is little to no economic development around stadiums. As I have covered before, there is just not enough activity for a business to build a base around. Even baseball stadiums, with near 100 events a year can't, because there is an hour window before a game and a half-hout afterward. Besides the small window, most stadiums, with concession stands, restaurants, bars and suites are designed to capture the discretionary dollars that might have gone outside the stadium. And to top it off, those expenditures are quite often tax-exempt.

Look around Texas Stadium, (old) Reunion Arena, La Grange Field, Lone Star Park or numerous other sports facilities in the area to see that example. Even Victory Park, of which the American Airlines Center is part of a master plan by one developer, is struggling to build out. What has been built is extremely under-patronized (though poor urban design surely plays a factor).

3) This is a replacement stadium. There will not be many new fans coming. There will still be visting teams, just like the other. Perhaps there will be more fans because higher profile teams will come, but not likely. There may be more home games, but at most one. The small increase is likely to miss the seven figure mark, let alone the $29 million cited in the study.

4) There will not be any long-term increase in attendance because of the facility. D Magazine tried to say that the Rangers World Series year was an outlier. More specifically, winners attract fans, not stadiums.

The best the stadium boosters can call for is increased pride in the University (or city) and increased recruiting of athletes who want to play in better stadiums in college than they did in high school. I can't argue that point, yet rarely is that ever given as a reason to build the things.

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