Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brewing Up An Inflated Impact

Major League Baseball recently released a study claiming a large economic impact due to Miller Park. Distant Brewers Fans Have $263 Million Annual Economic Impact.

A link to the study is not included in the article, nor could I find a copy of the study on the Institute for Survey & Policy Research's website.

[Coincidentally, this comes alongside the push for a new Milwaukee basketball arena.]

For starters, the study claims over 45% of fans come from outside the five-county Milwaukee metropolitan area. Yet, as I wrote in April 2012, "The UWM-Center for Economic Development notes in a study of another one of the Milwaukee development community's white elephants (PabstCity), "No venue in Milwaukee draws anything close to 30 percent of its visitors from outside the region. The Calatrava, with all its national and international publicity and iconic status, draws substantially less than 30% of its visitors from outside Milwaukee. Events such as the Wisconsin State Fair and Summerfest draw close to that figure, but these are once a year “special events,” with state-wide and civic participation and sponsorship."

Another odd caveat mentioned in the article, "The study did not consider spending by fans within the five-county metropolitan area in summarizing the economic impact of Miller Park. The reason is something economists call the "substitution effect," or the argument that local fans would be spending their money on other entertainment if the Brewers were not here."

When we're trying to decipher the economic impact a sport facility has on a region, you want to make sure you don't consider how the spending patterns of the majority of attendees affect other businesses in the area. WTF?

Next, we find that, "In estimating economic contributions of fan spending, Leib said the UW-Milwaukee study team used a reasonable multiplier of 2.1, though he usually does not use a multiplier higher than 2. This means that for every $1 spent by a distant fan, the study multiplied it by 2.1, arriving at an impact of $2.10 in the regional economy.  This summarizes how many more times - 2.1 - that dollar is spent in the region, according to Leib."

So, multipliers are usually under 2, but in this case, for some unexplained reason, a higher multiplier was used. Hmmm, I wonder why. 

Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys found, "The multiplier for spending on sports in a city may be substantially smaller than the multiplier on other forms of entertainment spending, perhaps the most plausible explanation. The majority of the revenues from professional sports go into salaries for players, managers, coaches, trainers, scouts and to income for the ownership. Most of these individuals, especially the more highly paid ones, do not live full time in the city where the games take place. Unlike the wages and salaries paid to employees of local restaurants, movie theaters, car dealerships, department stores, etc., the large salaries earned by players and coaches leak out of the local economy."

Here, again, we have the media proclaiming quantitative evidence of a substantial impact from sport stadiums by merely regurgitating the bullet points of the latest "study." But upon further inspection, this "study" can hardly be taken seriously.

It was also disappointing (although expected at this point) to see that the Journal Sentinel didn't even attempt to find a few counterpoints to interview for the article. Onward with the media-enabled corporate welfare bonanza.

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