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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Worcester City Council Is A Fan Of Plan To Bring PawSox To Town | Bostonomix

Suckers.

Edit: Some additional reading on the topic.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 22, 2018 at 08:08 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pawsox, stadium deals

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   1. villageidiom Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:02 AM (#5731520)
Here's what was offered in TFA by the ten economists:
Nola Agha, University of San Francisco: “It virtually never works.”

Joel Maxcy, Drexel University: “There’s just mountains now of economic evidence that the payoff that’s promised and what actually happens is far different. … If it were a private person, you would never take such a nonsensical bargain.”

John Solow, University of Iowa: “There’s a great deal of consensus among sports economists of all political stripes that this is not a good thing for local governments to be doing.”
So, right there, the author has chosen three quotes that don't comment on this proposal at all, just on the general principle.

Allen Sanderson, University of Chicago: “Overwhelmingly, the fannies in the stands are local. They’re choosing to spend a day or an evening at the ballpark instead of at the ball or other entertainment options.”
So the team leaving should be a boon to the other entertainment options in Pawtucket, right? There is, based on Sanderson's comment, literally zero dollars being spent on minor-league baseball that wouldn't have been spent on another local entertainment option had minor-league baseball not been available. There's something very Yogi-esque in the notion that everyone will go to those restaurants and bars and shops now that nobody's there.

Neil deMause, guy with a blog: “Worcester’s city leaders haven’t just outbid Pawtucket, they’ve ladled on goodies like they’re trying to buy Larry Lucchino’s love. Assuming they can get past all the legislative hurdles, it should be enough to get the city a pro sports team, but it’s tough to see spending more than $100 million in tax kickbacks and state infrastructure subsidies on a team that you could buy outright for $20 million as smart bargaining.”
He's not saying here that it's a bad deal, but rather that they could have gotten a better deal.

Robert Baade, Lake Forest College: “The idea that this is going to serve as a catalyst for economic development, which is the hope – and I emphasize the word hope – is misguided. … Your community could think of all other ways to spend the money with better economic return than a minor league baseball team”
He's not saying they won't get an economic return, but rather that they could have done better.

Victor Matheson, College of the Holy Cross (which is in Worcester): “This is an extraordinarily expensive stadium. … They seemed to be smarter than that. I’m extremely surprised that [the city’s cost] is as large as it is.”
Not really commenting on economic impact, but the implication is that they could have done better.

Andrew Zimbalist, Smith College: “If you can do something like this that was culturally and socially positive and at least break even, it made sense to go forward.”
Not just the guy who consulted with the team, but the foremost expert and godfather of sports stadia economic studies. And his criticism of projects prior to this was that the deals cities made had no chance of breaking even because they relied on unrealistic assumptions. In this case he says it would at least break even, meaning that he thinks this case is fundamentally different.

Michael Leeds, Temple University: “I really, really don’t see it. … You’re counting on something [the new development generating enough tax revenue to pay off the stadium] that’s not very likely to happen, and you better have a Plan B in place.”
At least this is a relevant critique. But in terms of property tax revenue, as long as the development (near the stadium) happens I think it should generate enough tax revenue to make it work, even if there's a substantial replacement effect.
   2. puck Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5731537)
The additional reading link is to Field of Schemes: Nine out of ten sports economics experts think Worcester’s stadium deal is awful, and the tenth is the guy who helped design it.

The tenth guy is Andrew Zimbalist. He worked for the city on the job.

Oops, should have hit refresh. Coke to vi.
   3. puck Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:13 AM (#5731540)
I wonder what made Coors Field and the LoDo area different. And whether the area would have taken off without Coors Field. (Probably?)
   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:29 AM (#5732109)
Not just the guy who consulted with the team, but the foremost expert and godfather of sports stadia economic studies.

As noted in the article. It's also the case that Zimbalist has been against such projects ... unless he was the consultant hired to justify them. He also cites a case where Zimbalist did some consulting for somebody in Anaheim and concluded it would have not impact on the local economy; then hired by Seattle to pitch how much money they would lose if the Sonics left, he came up with a huge estimate of local economic impact ... using the same report, just changing Anaheim to Seattle.

Here's an article on the Seattle debacle.

But Taylor put page after page of Zimbalist's Seattle report on a screen, adjacent to a 2005 report the Smith College professor prepared for a similar case involving the Anaheim Angels.

The wording was virtually identical in both reports, with "Anaheim" or the "Angels" simply replaced by "Seattle" or the "Sonics."

"Did you just go into your computer and change words?" Taylor asked.

"I have notes I use to draft my reports," Zimbalist responded.

After Taylor presented more and more identical pages, Zimbalist allowed that "it seems to be the same language."

"It seems to be the exact words, isn't it?" Taylor scoffed.

Yet Zimbalist came up with a different conclusion on the final page of the two reports.

He indicated the Angels' "quality of life value to the residents of Anaheim would be $7.75 million," based on his economic formula.

Concerning the Sonics' situation, however, he indicated it's impossible to precisely quantify the value of a sports franchise to citizens and that it could vary anywhere from $20 million to $2 billion for a city.


Hey "impossible to precisely quantify" is one thing ... a range of $20 M to $2 B is "pointless to quantify, might as well read tea leaves."

One of the commenters in the FoS piece also notes that Zimbalist is assuming the development around the stadium will generate lots of housing and thereby tax revenue, etc. And further notes that Zimbalist is not a housing economist and even housing experts wouldn't try to project a housing market 30 years into the future.
   5. spycake Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:11 AM (#5732118)
I wonder what made Coors Field and the LoDo area different. And whether the area would have taken off without Coors Field. (Probably?)


Probably. In Minneapolis, the new housing and restaurants were already coming to downtown before the new stadiums.
   6. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:24 AM (#5732122)
The LoDo region had extensive infrastructure and destination areas already. The 13th St Mall generates lots of foot traffic year-round, and there’s also a giant convention center there.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: August 23, 2018 at 07:40 AM (#5732125)
Not just the guy who consulted with the team, but the foremost expert and godfather of sports stadia economic studies.

google Zimbalist and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
let's just say that after being hired to analyze the project, he made a lot of assumptions that..... were juuuuust a little outside.

I'm sure it's a coincidence that he only has positive notions about the projects that involve a paycheck for him. Zimbalist is not a hill you want to die on.
   8. villageidiom Posted: August 23, 2018 at 10:35 AM (#5732202)
One of the commenters in the FoS piece also notes that Zimbalist is assuming the development around the stadium will generate lots of housing and thereby tax revenue, etc. And further notes that Zimbalist is not a housing economist and even housing experts wouldn't try to project a housing market 30 years into the future.
Is it relatively safe to project an improved lot vs. a vacant lot, in that the former will have higher taxes than the latter? The vacant, unimproved lot where the stadium will be built is generating tax revenue of $2,650 per acre per year right now. For this project to be a success for Worcester the net increase in tax revenue from the property to be developed near the stadium would need to be under $60,000 per acre per year, IME. For reference, probably the least desirable housing in that part of Worcester is currently sitting around $70,000 per acre per year in property taxes. In this project the impression I get is that the bar is set very low for it to be a success.
I'm sure it's a coincidence that he only has positive notions about the projects that involve a paycheck for him. Zimbalist is not a hill you want to die on.
Of course not. deMause has mentioned in the past that nearly all the economists he knows who study this stuff have been hired as consultants by teams at some point. I'd assume (a) if we listen just to the economists who haven't been paid by a team we'd likely have to disqualify everyone on the list except deMause, and (b) any economist speaking highly of a stadium project was being paid by the team, absent other information. In this case Zimbalist is not being paid by the team. He is being paid by the city, to advise on what kind of stadium deal would not be a boondoggle for the city. Of course he's going to be positive about his own work, that's no shock. But he's getting paid to ensure a team does not fleece the city. On that basis I think it's worth looking at the details. Which I have. There's no evidence that close to half of the negative economists even did that.

For close to half of the negative economists it's like they were asked about a specific game scenario involving a sacrifice bunt and they just said "the consensus is that sacrifice bunts virtually never work". It's an evasion, a lazy dismissal of the details. It's them saying "it's likely this isn't worth my time to get into the specifics", which is a different message than "I got into the specifics and this is just like the majority of cases". Furthermore it's a deferral to the consensus Zimbalist has built, so if he's deemed a hack who's only in it for the paycheck maybe economists shouldn't defer to what he said back when he was getting paychecks from those same economists (who were buying his books), nor should we defer to them when they do. Maybe the guy who works at Holy Cross - which is collecting rent at their stadium from a amateur summer league team that might now leave Worcester to avoid competition with an AAA team - should be disqualified, too. Maybe the guy who wrote the FoS article shouldn't cite himself as one of the experts.

I don't live in Worcester. I went to college there and found the city to be dull and not worth spending a minute longer than I had to spend in there. When I moved to Hartford and described Worcester I'd said, "It has all the charm of Hartford, except without jobs." I'm perfectly content if the city continues its descent into a hollow remnant of a better time. And I would rather the team stay in Pawtucket, my father having been a childhood friend of the late Ben Mondor who built that franchise into something special. I have every reason not to like this deal, except for the details of the deal. It looks to me like what would result from asking someone who has studied this kind of thing what kind of deal makes sense for Worcester.
   9. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:49 PM (#5732497)
Economists: "Bringing a ball team here won't actually help economically."
Sports fans: "NNNEEERRRDDSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!"

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