Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Baseball Stadium Myth

So last night FOX preempted the Simpsons rerun to show the announcement of baseball coming to DC. If you are lucky enough not to live in Washington you may not know about the long-running and extremely boring saga of DC trying to get a major league baseball team again (they lost the Senators 30 years ago).

City leaders promote public financing of baseball stadiums by claiming that the new stadium will attract business and create jobs. Is this true? I had heard of some cases where the city ended up losing money on the deal, but I had assumed that other teams had ended up making money for the city. My own team, the Baltimore Orioles, for instance, have been very successful with Camden Yards. So I looked them up and guess what?

All publicly financed stadiums have lost money for their cities.

Even my beloved Camden Yards! Johns Hopkins study, PDF

Having a major league team does have benefits. It contributes to area pride and it's great for families to take their kids to the ballgame. Camden Yards is gorgeous, I'm a lifelong Orioles fan and to me it's worth the about $15 a year the stadium deal ends up costing each Baltimore household. But the benefits are quality-of-life, not economic. Maybe if I didn't care about baseball and my kids were going to crumbling schools I'd be pissed off.

Just an FYI so that if this issue ever comes up in your city or state, you know what you're getting into.

You wouldn't know it by the way the press blindly reports the "new business and jobs" claims, but there's a ton of economic analyses of how these stadium deals have worked out for cities. Here's a decent basic summary by the CATO Institute.

1 comment:

John said...

So here's the question:

Will the O's still be "your own team" after the Senators come to town?