Spring training? Super Bowl? Prof pans impact
Wake up and good morning. He's baaaack! The Dr. No. of Sports is back in the news saying spring training is another example of exaggerated bang for the buck when it comes to a wise investment for cities. Meet Philip Porter, economics professor at the University of South Florida's College of Business Administration in Tampa.
When he isn't penning academic analyses like “The Paradox of Inelastic Sport Pricing” in the journal of Managerial and Decision Economics, he's offering more mainstream quotes, like this one in Monday's Toronto Star newspaper:
"You're kind of stupid to invest your money in spring training, when all the bang is going to come in six weeks. You're just not going to get a community that expands and grows."
This is the same guy who's already earned a reputation for pooh-poohing big sporting events, especially the Super Bowl, as hyped contributors to local economies. As he recently told the Bradenton Herald, the only true beneficiaries of the Super Bowl are businesses like gentlemen’s clubs that cater to the predominant 18- to 60-year-old male crowd and large hotel chains that typically charge higher rates during the event and whose owners reside outside the area anyway. “The local impact is absolutely zero,” Porter said.
Porter's got a lot of nerve. Raining on our feel-good "more sports the better" economic parade. Geez. You'd think he's, like, dedicated his Ph.D.-in-economics existence to studying this stuff or something... Nor is he alone in his conclusions. A number of economic studies, including this one from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. And plenty of academic books from "Sports, Jobs & Taxes" to "Major League Losers" have reached the same findings: the economic benefit of sports stadiums, events and teams is grossly exaggerated -- even if they offer intangible benefits to a community.
Porter has argued for years of the Super Bowl's "displacement effect" on other business that might otherwise be going on during the event. As he told the Herald:
“If you went to a Home Depot on Dale Mabry (in Tampa) during the Super Bowl, it would probably be empty. The problem is, the 100,000 people who are here just replace the 100,000 people who would have been here anyway. And the other people are displaced by the higher prices the hotels charge. Some businesses are going to find a boost but other businesses are going to find a dearth of business.”
On baseball's spring training impact, Porter questions whether a six-week training camp can generate enough revenue to justify such huge public expenditures as the Lee County Sports Authority's attempts to keep the Boston Red Sox there by promising to build a new stadium to look like a mini-Fenway park, or the Arizona town of Goodyear's decision to invest $76-million to lure the Cleveland Indians there from Florida.
As noted in the Toronto Sun story, Porter even questions the Tampa impact of the New York Yankees' spring training operation, which moved from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa. Does it really generate $100 million annually for the local economy? If that's true, he says, Tampa's economy should have grown by $100 million when the Yankees arrived, and Fort Lauderdale would have taken a similar-sized hit. He argues:
"Did we grow and did Fort Lauderdale shrink? The answer is no. There's no change in taxable sales in the communities that lost or gained a team. ... There's no change in the hotel occupancy. Why in the world aren't these things generating the kind of impact that the governor's office says they do?"
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist