13 April 2010

Beer Revolt at Camden Yards?

The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Cowherd is blogging about an apparent revolt against steep beer prices at Oriole Park at Camden Yards:

 A well-orchestrated chant in the terrace box seats the other night turned the traditional bugle call over the PA system into -- you can't make this stuff up -- a plea for more equitable beverage pricing.
Instead of just yelling "CHARGE! after the bugle call, a half-dozen of these folks were yelling: CHARGE! LESS FOR BEER!"
(Also from the article, and of serious note: "The crowd of 9,129 for Monday night's 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the lowest in Camden yards' 19-year history."  Oh, yes, look at all the economic return we're getting from building those stadiums and all but giving them to the sports teams' owners......)


The Oriole Way said...

Do I like paying $7.50 for Flying Dog? Nope. But you know what else I don't like? Some drunken idiot downing a Miller Lite an inning, shouting obscenities and eventually puking all over the row. There are reasons teams charge a lot for alcohol, and those reasons are not purely profit.

Andrew said...

Is there any evidence that we aren't getting economic return for the stadiums? I know when I was working at the Wharf Rat, I wasn't entirely concerned with the profit structure between the owner and city, but the economic benefit in my pocket at the end of the night certainly felt real.

You make a lot of off-hand remarks that don't seem to hold up to scrutiny of any kind. Just lazy sarcasm, basically.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

You REALLY want to go down that road?

"Franchise owners have used the threat of moving to another city to persuade state and local decisionmakers and politicians to provide them with lavish new stadiums and arenas at little or no cost.

More than 20 years ago, proponents
of the half-billion- dollar Skydome
in Toronto claimed that this facility would generate $450 million in Canadian dollars in the first year of operation and create 17,000 jobs in the Toronto area. Half a decade ago, prospective NFL team owners in Jacksonville, Florida, claimed that a new NFL franchise would generate $340 million in new income in the city and create 3,000 jobs. In a recent case, the Baltimore Sun reported
in April of 1999 that a new study supported tearing down the existing 36-year-old Baltimore Arena and replacing it with a new $200 million dollar facility. This investment, the study claims, will raise city taxes by $3.8 million and state taxes by $6.3 million. In addition, the facility could generate up to $100 million in new earnings for the citizens of the
city of Baltimore.
Contrast these recent figures with information from the 1994 edition of the County and City Data Book. In 1990, the last year for which city and state tax collections
are reported, Maryland and Baltimore collected $3.4 billion
and $528 million in taxes, respectively. For the city, the tax
gain from the replacement arena is, if the figures are correct,
only about 0.7 percent of 1990 tax collections. For the state, the new tax collections are less than two-tenths of a percent of 1990 tax collections. Earnings in Maryland were $68 billion and personal income in Baltimore was $13.9 billion.
Projected earnings from the arena are about 0.15 percent of state earnings for 1990 and about 0.72 percent of Baltimore’s total personal income. Although the absolute numbers seem large and impressive, they are small compared
with the existing tax revenues and local economy, even if one grants that the proponents’ estimates are correct."

Want more? http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv23n2/coates.pdf

I'm not saying that there isn't any economic return benefit from a stadium, but the numbers NEVER match what the consultants claim they will--basically, taxpayers (you and me) get ripped off, time and time again, because we elect suckers. Furthermore, why should a sports team owner get their infrastructure built for them and basically handed to them rent-free, but not, say, a hospital, or a supermarket, or, heck, a brewery or brewpub? Why do sports franchises warrant this special treatment?

Andrew said...

I'd say it's due to the economic ripple effects of stadia, which, like convention centers, can fully revitalize a neighborhood or even an entire city. I'd say the Verizon Center in D.C. has benefited more than just Abe Polin's family and Ted Leonsis, or do you not remember what Chinatown looked like 15 years ago? Then there's the national prestige of having professional sports teams, which positively impacts a city in plenty of ways that would be difficult to quantify.

It's always seemed the populist backlash against publicly funded stadia was based more in a culture war over the force-fed love of sports in this country, than it is in a well-informed examination of their economic impact.

So you've proven that the overpromise and underdeliver. That doesn't mean they aren't providing economic benefit to their cities, but only that they're providing less than they suggest they will. That puts them in the select company of every business, service, and public welfare system in the country. Let's just trash them all, I suppose.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Yes, stadiums/convention centers/etc. provide some degree of economic benefit. Bartenders and brewpub owners on Pratt Street benefited enormously from the building of Camden Yards and the expansion of the Convention Center. But why benefit those chosen few at the expense of others? Why should *I* have to pay just because some sports fans want a presumed benefit of civic pride? I don't ask taxpayers to subsidize my beer hobby or photography interests, after all.

My wife and her future employees would economically benefit if she took the gamble of opening an art gallery or framing shop. Does that entitle her to have her shop built for her by the state and use it for free or nearly so?

I don't ask the O's or Ravens to shut down or get out of town. All I ask is for them to pay what I, an unknown entrepreneur, would be charged if I wanted to carry out commercial enterprises in Camden Yards of a similar scope--which, I can tell you, would be plenty.

Anonymous said...

To be fair about attendance... that's a Monday night game in April against the Rays (who you can see anytime due to the unbalanced schedule) and it falls right between the home opener and Wieters T-shirt bargain night. No wonder there was record low turnout.

The team is terrible, but I suspect most fans were going either to Friday's opener or Tuesday this week. Aside from season plans, very few people are going to more than one game a week.

Andrew said...

But as I said, the economic benefit of a stadium is to more than just the owner of that sports team. If your wife's gallery was going to inspire a sprawl of entrepreneurship stretching in 10 blocks from her gallery in every direction, maybe the state would decide to help her out. Oh, wait! The state and city already have programs and tax incentives to help out potential gallery owners, even though their economic impact is infinitesimal compared to something like a pro sports team. Arts and Entertainment district do precisely that (on a scale commensurate with their impact).

And I didn't mean to suggest that the unquantifiable benefits of a publicly funded stadium, which keeps a team in a city, were limited to mere emotions like civic pride. No, I was considering something more like the message that it sends to potential investors that says "This is a first class city." Maybe a lucrative company like Under Armour wouldn't decide to do business in Baltimore, bringing jobs and tax dollars by the bushel, if there was no such thing as the Ravens.

Like I said, seems more like an extension of the jocks vs. drama argument in high school than it does a principled disagreement.