The Brewers want a new spring training park. Gilbert, Ariz., would like to give it to them. The stadium would cost $90 million; the Brewers offered to pay $20 million of that. The adjoining mixed-use “village,” including retail and hotel, would cost another $70 million; the Brewers offered to pay none of that.
So what’s a town to do when it’s trying to justify spending $140 million in taxpayer money? Bring in the consultants.
Problem, is, those consultants said the math doesn’t work out.
The study by Applied Economics, obtained by The Republic through a public records request, said the spring training facility would bring a significant number of new visitors to Gilbert and generate additional spending, but “the Spring Training season is short and thus the impacts of the stadium are limited unless it is used in the off-season for events that bring in large numbers of non-local visitors.”
“However, the cost of investing in the stadium versus the value of the mixed-use development may not be justifiable,” the study said.
So now what’s a town to do when the consultants tell you subsidizing a stadium will lose money? Ignore them and hire new consultants, of course.
Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, said the Applied Economics study was fairly limited in its scope and did not take into account the indirect economic benefits of a potential stadium.
The chamber is working with a different economic consulting firm to provide a broader economic analysis.
This is the purest distillation of the stadium scam—lawmakers falling all over themselves to justify spending tens of millions on a ballpark that will be open one month a year, just to draw a team from 35 miles away (the Brewers currently train in Phoenix). And we wouldn’t know about of it—the outlandish claims, the realistic study that got buried because it didn’t return the desired conclusion—if not for a public records request by the Arizona Republic. This stuff is not debated in the open, because sunlight has a way of showing the greed and the stupidity and, in this case, some downright malice from developers and local officials attempting to mislead the public, whose money they’re trying to give away.
Seriously, look at these numbers:
According to Gilbert’s financial estimates, the total annual expense of the ballpark would be $8 million to $10 million...The estimated revenue from the stadium would be just more than $4 million per year.
But the developer insists that there’s so much more money to be brought in; it just doesn’t show up in the studies.
According to LGE Design Build, Gilbert would see an increase in direct tax revenue of about $880,000. But Sellers stressed that indirect tax revenues spurred by spring training — from spending at restaurants, hotels, etc. — would make the town’s investment worthwhile.
“The Brewers coming into Gilbert is Gilbert tapping into a $850 million ... Valley economic impact. Just 10 percent of that would be $85 million being spent in Gilbert that isn’t happening right now,” Sellers said to Banger in an email.
$85 million more spent a year? Just because of a spring training ballpark? Neil deMause of Field of Schemes reverse engineers that calculation, and that would require each and every fan to spend $755 per game on top of what they would have spent in Gilbert otherwise.
When teams demand publicly financed stadiums, they’re counting on municipalities not to do the math, or to do it so cynically that it becomes entirely divorced from reality. That is the reality of the stadium scam.