Victor Matheson On Economic Impact Of Stadiums

(5.13) Here is a chance to learn about the economic impact of baseball stadiums from an impartial expert, Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Or you can go with the $225/hour advisor (sports economist Andrew Zimbalist) hired by House Speaker Mattiello whose sole purpose seems to be providing state leadership with a strategy for ramming this through. Zimbalist does not speak as if “We are giving you zero dollars” is even on the table, telling Elisabeth Harrison at RIPR “the PawSox proposal should be seen as a starting point for negotiations.” It is troubling that our elected officials keep repeating that there is “a better deal” for the taxpayers. I have yet to meet anyone who wants any deal at all.

So we don’t need negotiations, and we don’t need to pay for expensive consultants, and we don’t need to extend the general assembly’s session past June. Look at all the money we can save — let’s throw some of it at the labor unions and have them work on the state’s infrastructure for a couple of years. That benefits everyone and creates an inviting business climate.

Also on Harrison’s show was Victor Matheson* professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, and an expert in the field, who, “admits it’s common for sports teams to receive large public subsidies, but he questions the practice. In this case, he thinks it would mainly shift economic activity from Pawtucket to Providence, and he points out that such generous subsidies are rarely given to other types of businesses” adding,

“One has to ask themselves why do normally rational, level headed people all of a sudden lose their mind when a baseball team or a baseball player gets involved,” said Matheson. “And that seems to have happened now a little bit earlier with software companies in Rhode Island, and it seems to be happening now as well.”

Yes. That is how we appear to the outside world. How inviting can the state’s economic environment be if our state leadership is perceived to be impulsive and shortsighted? At least let us finish paying for 38 Studios before we jump back into the fire.

*You can hear Victor Matheson speak on “The Economic Impact of Baseball Stadiums” tomorrow,  Wednesday morning, at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center. Register at Eventbrite.

Free and open to the public, 10am to 11am, Wednesday, May 13, BV Visitor Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket, (directions), 401.724.2200


2 thoughts on “Victor Matheson On Economic Impact Of Stadiums”

  1. I am not sure why anyone would want my opinion, but here are my thoughts on the proposal for the new Providence AAA baseball stadium.

    I think the owners don’t have a basic understanding of who their CORE fans are. They are families, with little kids. They go to the game to eat hotdogs and cotton candy, try to grab an autograph from a player they don’t know, run on the field after the game or buy a foam finger.

    They like their $9 General Admit seats and sitting on the grass to picnic. They like their free parking. Most of them leave before the end of the game, and by the next day, they probably don’t even remember who won. But they had FUN.
    Their fans are not, in general, people who are hardcore sports fans. This isn’t the Fenway crowd. They don’t need a bunch of fancy food, or a lot of bars. Is there a need for an upgrade, sure, but not to the level the new PawSox owners think.

    Take a look at the other “AAA” team in town, the P-Bruins. They draw ok, it’s mostly families with kids, and I bet they sell lot more souvenirs than they do $8 beers.

    I think one reason for this “type” of fan may so far have not been considered. We don’t live all that far from the big league clubs. Hardcore fans can get to Fenway by train in about an hour. I haven’t done a serious analysis, but I think many of the successful AAA teams do NOT play within close (50 miles-ish) proximity of a major league facility.

    If the Pawsox left, it would be a bummer. But I also bet that if a year or two later a Single-A team came into Pawtucket, you would draw the same fan base of families, little league teams and the like. I do think McCoy needs a makeover, with some better amenities and options (particularly food) and maybe a civic upgrade around the park. But moving the team 5 miles for a new park misses the boat on who the fan-base really is.

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