Spring Training Economics and Other Questions

There was an absolutely great post by Shadow of the Stadium on Sunday. (Sorry so late, been having computer problems.)

In his post, “The Murky Economics of Spring Training … and How Florida Can Do It Better“, Noah Pransky details some of the difficulties pinning down the economic benefit of Spring Training in Florida. It is a highly recommended post. Go check it out if you haven’t.

Noah examines the Dunedin claim of $80 million spring training impact due to the Blue Jays. What I find most dubious is the proximity of Dunedin with Clearwater. How much overlap is there between Clearwater’s impact and Dunedin’s? Are fans staying in Dunedin and not leaving Dunedin? Are they not attending games at Bright House Field? Could Dunedin hotels contain Phillies fans?

Let’s also look at the team in the biggest market and in the biggest Spring Training stadium, the Yankees.

Last year, I wrote that although tourism in Hillsborough County went up, Yankees spring training average attendance was the lowest it had been since 2008. According to the 2009 Grapefruit League Economic Impact Report, the Yankees have the lowest amount of “out-of-state” attendees of any team training in Florida. However, they have the highest amount of “in-county attendees” of any team. By far.

So we need to look at the “substitution effect”. According to Noah, studies fail to look at the

“substitution effect” of spring training gobbling up the disposable income of Floridians who may have otherwise spent the money in other areas

Noah mentions movie theaters, theme parks, restaurants, etc, but what he doesn’t mention is other baseball.

A local dollar spent on the Yankees spring training is a local dollar not spent on any other local team. Tampa Bay is a small market Major League region and there is a limited amount of expendable local dollars in the Tampa Bay region. Whereas tourists inject money into the economy, local dollars are only shuffled around.

I would like to know what benefit does a local Yankee fan receive seeing the Yankees in an exhibition game versus seeing them play the Rays in Tropicana Field? The Yankees are already the biggest drawing opponent on the Rays schedule. That will not change as long as the Rays continue play in the AL East. But could the games draw more Yankees fans if those local fans didn’t spend their money on exhibition games in March? Do games at Steinbrenner Field attract local Yankees fans due to proximity, cost, or convenience?

Likewise, local Rays fans spending money on spring games to see the Rays visit Bright House Field, Auto Exchange Stadium, McKechnie Field, and Steinbrenner Field could also be utilizing that money towards regular season tickets versus many of the same teams.

So not only is Spring Training shuffling local funds from one venue to the other, it is also denying the Major League team direct local revenue.

In the past, Spring Training was the only way Florida fans could see their Major League heroes. Today, with two Major League teams in the state, the perceived benefit for Tampa Bay and Miami area fans is much lower. Meanwhile, their tax dollars continue to be poured into stadiums and benefits. The conundrum of Spring Training continues.

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