BEYOND THE ECONOMIC CATALYST DEBATE: CAN PUBLIC CONSUMPTION BENEFITS JUSTIFY A MUNICIPAL STADIUM INVESTMENT?
A host of empirical studies have indicated that stadiums and arenas have no significant impact on metropolitan area income or employment. In light of this evidence, the continued proliferation of public investment in sports facilities begs the question: Is there some other justification for this spending, or are policymakers simply acting against the public interest (either irrationally, or in response to political-economic influences)? A possibility that has not been fully explored is the notion that stadiums and teams generate tangible and intangible consumption benefits that could support some level of public investment. This research builds on a small foundation of literature that is moving discussion beyond the economic catalyst debate by providing an empirical measure of the consumption benefits that accrue to a region as the result of hosting a major league sports team. A contingent valuation survey is used to quantify the consumption benefits that would be associated with the relocation of a major league baseball team to Portland, Oregon. An empirical measure of the region's aggregate willingness to pay for the benefits associated with hosting a team is disaggregated into option and existence values, which can then be compared to any proposed level of public contribution to a new stadium. The findings indicate that consumption benefits would only support a capital investment of approximately $74 million; a figure far smaller than the typical stadium subsidy. The majority of projected benefits are associated with expected public goods and externalities, rather than anticipated attendance, indicating that an equitable financing plan should employ nonuser revenue sources. The level of projected benefits does not vary by locality within the metropolitan area, which argues for a regional cost-sharing approach. The willingness of residents to pay for stadium construction is tempered by a concern about other pressing social needs in the Portland area and a reaction to the current tax climate.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: The University of Memphis
Publication date: December 1, 2007