Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 15, 2014

"If you build it, he will come."

That line from the film Field of Dreams is one of the most memorable in movie history.

The story told in the motion picture is about an Iowa farmer who hears magical voices that lead him to take a portion of his farm out of production and to instead build a baseball field where he had previously grown corn. Once built, the field attracts the spirits of a number of the most talented professional baseball players from the game's earliest decades, but at a real world price - the farmer risks losing his family's farm because he can no longer grow and sell enough crops to pay back his loans. Ultimately, the fairy tale ends as a stream of people travel to the magical baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa, willing to pay the farmer for the experience of seeing baseball's bygone greats play once again.

Every time a local or state government seeks to use taxpayer dollars or to borrow money by issuing bonds for the sake of building a brand new sports stadium for a professional sports franchise, they are, in essence, trying to recreate the fairy tale told in Field of Dreams. If they build it, they claim, they will reap a financial reward that's far greater than the cost.

How do you suppose that works out in the real world?

Let's tell the story of how the city of Mesa, Arizona built a new baseball stadium complex, which would be the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs in addition to being the focal point of a major urban development project. Let's pick up the story from the stadium's grand opening on Saturday, 22 January 2014:

On Saturday, Mesa takes the wraps off Cubs Park, a 15,000-seat stadium designed to keep the Chicago Cubs in town for at least the next 30 years of spring training.

It’s the centerpiece of a complex whose baseball facilities alone priced out at $84 million in public money for the ballpark, several practice fields and a 70,000-square-foot clubhouse that will serve as the Cubs’ Western headquarters.

Mesa tacked on $15 million for infrastructure in and near the baseball facilities. And, after voters approved park-bond money in 2012, the city added $7.7 million more to turn next-door Riverview Park into a showplace with a play area designed to knock kids’ socks off.

One thing that's important to recognize right off the bat is that Mesa had been the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs since 1952. Building the stadium complex didn't attract the Cubs or their fans to Mesa, because they had been coming for decades.

But would a new stadium attract new fans? New fans who would spend money in Mesa, boosting the city's revenue from sales taxes?

After the team's first spring training at the new field, the numbers are now in:

Day after day this spring, Cubs Park bulged with the biggest crowds ever to attend Cactus League games, with wallets open not just for tickets but for stuff at the next-door Riverview shopping area.

But that did not translate into a citywide boost in sales-tax collections, one of the most closely watched numbers in a city that greatly depends on that source of revenue.

The March sales-tax report showed Riverview pumped $397,000 into the city treasury, a 5.7 percent increase from the same month in 2013.

Citywide, March sales taxes totaled $12.8 million, almost exactly the same as the previous year and $219,000 short of what the city had projected.

Fans did indeed flock to the new stadium, but instead of stimulating Mesa's economy as a whole through their increased spending, what really happened was that they had simply shifted where they were doing their spending within the city. They spent more in the area adjacent to the new facility, but spent less elsewhere in the city. They hadn't boosted their spending at all and the city of Mesa failed to realize their dream of more sales tax revenues from the professional sports field they built.

That outcome is an old lesson, but one that most politicians have repeatedly failed to learn.

It seems that when it comes to professional sports, politicians are just not that bright. But then, they would appear to get a really good deal on really good seats, so maybe that's what really motivates them to support their local fields of schemes.


About Political Calculations

blog advertising
is good for you

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

Thanks in advance!

Recent Posts


This year, we'll be experimenting with a number of apps to bring more of a current events focus to Political Calculations - we're test driving the app(s) below!

Most Popular Posts
Quick Index

Site Data

This site is primarily powered by:

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Visitors since December 6, 2004:

CSS Validation

Valid CSS!

RSS Site Feed

AddThis Feed Button


The tools on this site are built using JavaScript. If you would like to learn more, one of the best free resources on the web is available at W3Schools.com.

Other Cool Resources

Blog Roll

Market Links
Charities We Support
Recommended Reading
Recommended Viewing
Recently Shopped

Seeking Alpha Certified

Legal Disclaimer

Materials on this website are published by Political Calculations to provide visitors with free information and insights regarding the incentives created by the laws and policies described. However, this website is not designed for the purpose of providing legal, medical or financial advice to individuals. Visitors should not rely upon information on this website as a substitute for personal legal, medical or financial advice. While we make every effort to provide accurate website information, laws can change and inaccuracies happen despite our best efforts. If you have an individual problem, you should seek advice from a licensed professional in your state, i.e., by a competent authority with specialized knowledge who can apply it to the particular circumstances of your case.