Update on Dunedin Spring Training pitch

On Saturday, there was a very good article in the Tampa Bay Times on the City of Dunedin’s pitch to keep the Toronto Blue Jays in town for spring training.

Written by staff writer Megan Reeves, the article cites the Blue Jays and Dunedin officials’ preference to keep the Jays in Dunedin. It also cites economists and watchdogs who caution against public spending on sports stadiums.

Overall, this was one of the better newspaper articles I’ve seen on stadiums in a long time.

But if I could add a few additional facts to the issue:

In regards to the City of Dunedin’s economic impact study, which claims Blue Jays Spring Training game attendees spend $85 million in Dunedin:

According to the article, game attendees spend $80 million in 2015. Meanwhile, according to the Yankees economic study on their Spring Training impact, their game attendees in Tampa spent $95.5 million in 2015.

  • 2015 Blue Jays Spring Training attendance: 69,101
  • 2015 Yankees Spring Training attendance: 171,915

Dollars spent per game attendee:

  • Blue Jays: $1,157
  • Yankees: $552

Wow. There are two ways to explain this. Either game attendees in Dunedin are spending more because they are from out-of-town, or the Yankees game attendees are spending less because fewer are tourists – meaning the Yankees rely on more local fans. If Yankees fans are more local, they won’t spend as much in the area.

But the Yankees study claimed 40,000 people came from out of state to see the Yankees. If the same amount came to see the Blue Jays – and spent double the amount of money – that could mean 58% of the Blue Jays attendance is tourists. And that also assumes each of the 40,000 fans went to one game each.

Another question that should be asked is: how many of these tourists are actually staying in Dunedin, and how many are staying in neighboring municipalities such as Clearwater?

So the economic impact is not specific to Dunedin, but for the entire region.

According to City-Data.com, there are only 35,819 people living in Dunedin as of 2014. Dunedin is the smallest Spring Training location in Florida as well as one of the smallest Minor League towns in the US.

While the Dunedin economic study looked at the six-week Spring Training economic impact, what is the impact of any other tourist attraction that could be open at the same location year-round? What else could fit at that location and draw 5,000 people per month?

That’s 1,250 tourists per week. Or 178 per day.

That’s it. In order to equal the amount of tourists the Blue Jays draw during Spring Training, the City of Dunedin would have to find something that brings in 178 tourists per day.

If we take the $80 million supposedly brought in by Spring Training, divide it by 365 days, then by 178, we get $1,231.

If Dunedin were to replace the Blue Jays with another attraction, that attraction would have to generate $1,231 per day per person in tourist revenue.

And once the Blue Jays go to Toronto, the Dunedin Blue Jays are among the least drawing teams in Minor League Baseball. According to NumberTamer.com’s 2015 study of Minor League attendance,

Dunedin drew 52,659, averaging 798 per date. This was the 2nd lowest total and average among full-season NAPBL teams (to Bakersfield), and the 4thlowest average among all NAPBL teams. Since 1998, Dunedin has topped 60,000 only in 2014

While the Clearwater Threshers – 10 minutes away – draw nearly 200,000 fans per season, the Dunedin Blue Jays struggle to draw 1/3 of the Threshers attendance. Surprisingly, no one ever campaigns to move the Dunedin Blue Jays to a location with a bigger fanbase or a closer stadium.

As a matter of fact, the City of Dunedin and Pinellas County is nearly ready to open up the coffers to keep the Blue Jays in their current market. Hopefully we see more articles like Reeves as we get closer.

2 comments for “Update on Dunedin Spring Training pitch

  1. Kelly Ann
    June 1, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I think when comparing the Threshers you have to consider things like marketing and local promotions. The threshers with all you can eat Monday, or dollar night on Tuesday, and fireworks on Saturday are examples why they outdrew the Jays.

    • Michael Lortz
      June 2, 2016 at 1:58 am

      I agree 100%. Location is also very important. Bright House Field is in a great place. Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is off the beaten path.

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