What does the Brookings Institute study really say?

June 9, 2006

The Save Our City, retired UWF professor C.C. Elebash and others against the Community Maritime Park, such as P.A. Ucci, have strongly criticized the multi-purpose stadium. They use a book published by the Brookings Institute Press, "Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums" to justify their position that baseball parks have a negative impact on local economies.

Here are few facts about the book that has become the SOC resources for attacking the economic impact of baseball parks:

a) It was published in 1997, nine years ago. Most of the data was compiled on major league stadiums built between 1986-1995 – over 10 to 20 years ago.

b) Only one chapter is devoted to minor league baseball teams. The majority of the book is devoted to pro teams in much larger cities where the operational costs (the pro salaries are in the millions) and construction costs (not 3,500 seats like is proposed here – but 50,000-100,000 seat mega football and baseball stadiums) are much higher.

c) There is a chapter on minor league baseball (Chp. 14 Minor leagues and their communities). It focuses primarily on the 1990 Professional Baseball Agreement and its impact on minor league baseball. And it also discusses the influence Major League Baseball had on the minor leagues in 1980's and 1990's. It has the same tone as the rest of the book – against stadiums built with public assistance – but the authors admit that they don't have enough data to analysis the situation on the same level as they do major league stadiums – but they still try to apply it to the minors, of course.

d) The authors express three major concerns with minor league teams: short-term lease contracts (less than 5 years), non-local ownership and replacement of existing ball parks in same area. CMP has a 10-yr guarantee lease, local ownership and is new ball park in a new area – so these concerns are answered in the CMP plan.

e) The authors did look at three minor league teams. One is now considered a success – the one built downtown. The other two have financial problems, but are significantly different than the CMP proposal

• Trenton (NJ) Thunder – play in Mercer County Waterfront Park (6900 capacity) – they have been rated one of the best franchises in minors. The county considers it a huge success.

• Lake Elsinore (CA) Storm plays in The Diamond (6600 capacity). The park was built in 1994 outside a town of less than 30,000 people. It cost over $22 million to build in 1994 and didn't have a revenue source like the CRA tied to paying off the debt. The city is looking to sell the stadium.

• Charlotte (NC) Knights – has been playing in Ft. Mills, SC at Knights Stadium (10000 capacity) since 1990- more than 15 miles from Charlotte. It hasn't been successful from what I can tell from the Internet. The owners have announced plans for a new ball park in downtown Charlotte.

Using this book to debunk the Community Maritime Park is ridiculous. It doesn’t take into account any of the economic changes that happened in minor league baseball or this country in the past nine years. It is not comparing apples to apples.

Furthermore, one of the authors, Andrew Zimbalist, was asked to quote on a proposed new stadium for Washington, D.C. He did point out several reasons why a stadium might not help the local economy. However, he did say, "If the stadium project is accompanied by a commitment to also invest in commercial, residential or other development, it is certainly conceivable that the overall project will have a positive impact."

Sounds like he's describing the Community Maritime Park.

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