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Economists: Impact of Ballparks Generally Positive, but Modest

New rookie league stadiums are associated with a $202 increase in per capita income.

With the Phoenixville Baseball Committee moving full speed ahead with plans to fierce debate has sprung up around the likely consequences of erecting a 4,000 seat ballpark on the former steel mill site.

Concerns about parking, quality of life, and the wisdom of spending $25 million on a baseball stadium in a town that sorely needs infrastructure work have been raised. But baseball committee spokesman Barry Cassidy has countered that the ballpark, and the fans it draws, could galvanize the already fast-growing area.

According to economists though, the debate may be much ado about nothing. The consensus is that the economic impact of a minor league ballpark, while varying from city to city, is a generally positive, but modest one.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Sports Economics examined the 238 US cities that hosted a minor league baseball team between 1985 and 2006 and looked to see if they benefited from economic and quality of life improvements resulting from the stadium.

Its author found that building a AA stadium was associated with a $161 increase in per capita income and building a rookie league stadium was associated with a $202 increase (Phoenixville is likely to draw a rookie or independent league team). He added that dollar gains in income tax revenues in the cities in question were sufficient to cover the stadium cost in 75% of rookie league markets

The reason for the relatively small effect is simple, sports economist J.C. Bradbury told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: people may come to a minor league city ready to spend money, but they do it at the stadium

The notoriously optimistic growth projections of planners, he said, "assume people are spending money they wouldn't otherwise be spending" on other forms of entertainment in the city. "What the fans are [actually] doing," he said, "is relocating money from other entertainment" to the team.

In other words, money will likely be made. But most of it by the team.

Bob Tigro July 20, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The only way I see this project workable for the Borough is to have it self funded. Meaning that those who use the stadium/parking garage pay for the debt service and that it is not tied to the Borough's tax base. If it truly is a viable project, the funding should be available, if not they will fight tooth and nail to tie it to the Borough's tax collection, which in turn ties it to everyone. Unfortunately I do not believe that the stadium will increase shopping in the downtown district. I have visited Wilmington, Reading and Lighthouse complexes and have only visited restuarants before or after the game. We will also need to look at the expense of this project to the Borough in the increase in police and traffic protection. Since this is a very seasonal use of the land, I would look to see PT police officers.
PVilleRes July 20, 2012 at 11:42 PM
The reason I think that the Reading and Wilmington argument is illegitimate is because unlike what would be the case in P-ville, those ball parks are not really close to the downtown. All those ball parks are are not in the center of their respective cities, and shopping around them is limited. Also, at those ball parks, it is possible to come and go to the stadium without going through the business district. Unless the park is accompanied with an entrance accessible from the North side along french creek, it would be almost impossible to get to the stadium without going on either Bridge street, Main street, Nutt road, or the French Creek Parkway which would likely accompany this project- all of the main roads in Phoenixville, which would take them directly to the shops. Another argument is that in those other cities, the park is not within walking distance of downtown, or else you'd be walking through some shady hoods. We wouldn't have that in P-ville. The ball park would likely have direct access to Bridge Street. I think this is a really great project for P-ville, and I'd love to see it become a reality. It gives P-ville just a little something more... Really just imagine this. On the steel site P-ville has the ball park, hopefully the parcel O development with the parking garage and improvements to the trail (though my gut tells me it won't happen because the DeMutis Group), the parcel Q development, maybe a few offices along with the stadium, the new sign project..

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