The Spring Training Scam

Every year, lawmakers, chambers of commerce and municipalities in Florida and Arizona go on about just how much of an economic impact spring training has on local economies. On the basis of that impact, they argue for the use of public dollars to construct or improve spring training facilities, and towns practically go to war with one another to lure or secure teams. The basis for this are numbers provided by The Cactus League Association and The Florida Sports Foundation, which claim that spring training brings economic benefits to local economies of $310 million and $450 million, respectively. National Review’s Charles Fountain notes, however, that these are dubious claims:

But are these numbers real?

“Politicians are making these claims, not economists,” said Phillip Porter, a professor of economics at the University of South Florida and the most oft-quoted critic of the economic-impact claims surrounding spring training. “There’s a group of sports economists, people who teach at universities and do very, very legitimate, frontline, historical, archival research in sports economics — people with no irons in the fire — and among that group of economists you’ll find uniform agreement that spring training and the presence of sports teams in a community have very little impact on jobs, on employment, on income and earning, and very little on spending.”

It’s nice to have numbers to work with. Numbers are useless, however, when those who provide them have stacked the deck in their favor.

(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)

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  1. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    *sigh* For those that don’t bother to read the actual article before commenting…

    “The guy that’s using this model probably’s got a bias anyway. So essentially what he does is hire a bunch of [college] kids and they’ll go out to a spring-training game or any sporting event and they’ll ask the people: ‘Why are you here?’ ‘Well I’m here to watch spring training.’ ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I’m from Ohio.’ ‘How many days are you in Florida?’ ‘My family and I, four of us, we’re here for a week.’ And all of a sudden because he was at that game, a whole week’s worth of demand for Florida vacation is attributed to that event. In the model, what goes in is a week’s worth of spending by four people. It’s really not the case that these people only came to Florida because of spring training. They came to Florida because it was a great vacation place and, oh, one of the things they did one afternoon was go watch the local team in a spring-training game.”

  2. Leo said...

    OK, I see.  So politicians sometimes exaggerate the impact of projects they propose or oppose.  That’s groundbreaking stuff.

  3. J. McCann said...

    I had thought that the current state of research was that regular stadiums usually had a negligible impact, while spring trainging had a large impact, which made sense to me.

  4. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    This might be the first time that a Republican has ever advocated intelligence, higher education, and/or research.  Usually, they’re out there trashing the educated by calling them “elitist”. 

    I’m a little bitter today…

  5. Pete Toms said...

    @ BillyBeane; Public dollars for pro sports is one issue where liberals and conservatives find common ground.

    Typically these initiatives are opposed by 2 groups in the community.  Conservative, anti tax folk who see it as corporate welfare and liberal grassroots folk who would rather see the $$$ spent on education, arts etc. I guess in the end, both groups see it as corporate welfare.

  6. Leo said...

    I’m smart enough to defer to those smarter than I am, but you’ll have a tough time convincing me that when tens of thousands of New Englanders trek down to Ft. Myers every spring to stay in a local resort, eat at the local restaurants, buy the local souvenirs and hit a few Sox games, that there’s no economic impact on the community.

  7. Craig Calcaterra said...

    No one is suggesting that there is no economic impact.  The author and the people he quotes are simply suggesting that the impact isn’t as large—or nearly as large—as the commissions/associations whose business it is to promote spring training are claiming it to be.

  8. kevin said...

    The other issue is that, while it’s likely that central Florida or coastal Florida as a region gets some economic boost from spring training visitors, a particular town probably doesn’t get enough to offset its stadium costs. The visitors for a week of spring training games in Port St. Lucie, for example, don’t necessarily stay in Port St. Lucie. Maybe they stay (and eat) 20 miles away.

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