C. C. Elebash says (and Gulf1 Totally agrees):
Sports writer Bill Vilona has it right. Wahoo baseball has “big support”. Attendance is high and fans are enthusiastic. (See News-Journal June 17 article and June 19 editorial.)
However, the biggest Wahoo support comes from taxpayers -- and not from baseball fans! The City has put almost $50 million into the waterfront park. An additional $12 million came from Federal “stimulus funds”. The major part of the investment is attributable to the stadium. It dominates the entire project. The enlarged ballpark is apparently “squeezing out” commercial development.
Revenues from commercial development were supposed to pay for the maritime park, but this is not happening. City taxpayers will “foot the bill”.
Next year’s City subsidy will be between $4.0 and $5.0 million. This includes bond principal and interest, plus maritime park management, operations and maintenance. The actual amount awaits City Council’s budget review. The stadium’s allocated share of the subsidy would probably be around $2.5 million. But stadium annual rent is less than $500,000!
The City’s ballpark will not enhance the Pensacola economy. Minor league sports do not attract out-of-town money or out-of-town people. Only upper income fans can afford to regularly attend Wahoo games, and money spent at the ballpark is offset by a loss of sales at other area businesses.
Almost all experts find that minor league sports teams have little or no positive economic impact.
- “Virtually every independent economic study, including one by the Florida Senate in 2005, has shown that publicly funded sports stadiums are a rotten deal for taxpayers.” Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, syndicated column in Pensacola News-Journal, Jan. 12, 2010.
- “The supposed economic stimulus of sports stadiums is a myth that has been so thoroughly debunked by economists — a group famous for their penchant to disagree — that a recent survey of the American Economic Association found that 85 percent of its members favored eliminating government subsidies of professional sports franchises.” J.C. Bradbury, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sept. 9, 2011.
Pensacola has lost population, and the poverty level is high. Sadly, we are betting our economic future on a baseball park.
(C. C. Elebash is a retired UWF finance professor.)