Will They Push George Brett Around in a Wheelchair?
I sure hope not. For starters, I think he’s only 60 and in perfectly good health. But ever since the Red Sox did it with The Kid, and the Cards repeated it last year with The Man (although I don’t recall Stan Musial using a wheelchair last year, and, yes, I did attend), celebrating your city’s greatest baseball player is just what you do when you host the All-Star Game now.
I think it is terrific that Kansas City gets the All-Star Game in 2012. All sports fans know that baseball’s All-Star Game is the only one in which the players legitimately compete. (This is mainly because of the lower marginal risk for injury in baseball than in other sports.) But the Freakonomics blog has a post up today that could give Kansas City pause and Saint Louis some statistical revisions.
The post is about the economic impact of major sporting events. Needless to say, they generally don’t live up to the hype. From the entry:
The gist of it is that you can make an economic impact study say pretty much whatever you want, since it’s an exercise in speculation, and that the economists hired by bid committees make sure the numbers say yes.
The entry goes on to quote economist Dennis Coates:
Few analysts who aren’t in the employ of the event boosters have ever found such events to pay for themselves in a purely dollars and cents view.
In March 2005, Denver, Colorado, tourism officials predicted 100,000 visitors for the NBA All-Star Game. Considering that the Pepsi Center, the game’s venue, only holds 20,000 fans and taking into account that Denver has only about 6000 hotel rooms, it is not clear exactly how such an influx of basketball fans would be possible.
At the very least, we should question numbers thrown around without any supporting documentation, as in this article:
Major League Baseball estimated that last year’s All-Star Game in St. Louis had an economic benefit of $60 million on the city. The game a year earlier at Yankee Stadium had a positive fiscal impact of $148.4 million on New York — while San Francisco’s estimate in 2007 was $65 million.
I recognize that there is a big difference between hosting an event for which you have to build facilities, like the Olympics, and hosting an event for which you already have the requisite facilities for other purposes. The All-Star Game fits into this later category, which means it is far easier to make money — or, at least, limit any losses. I am sure that the 2012 All-Star Game will be great for Kansas City in many ways, but I hope people don’t believe the financial projections and hype without any evidence to back it up.
I have no idea whether the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis actually resulted in the $60 million impact that all of these articles cited. The consistency of the number does not make me more likely to believe it — rather, it tells me that someone came up with a preliminary estimate and everybody else likely repeated that number after Googling it.