The OC Register’s Marty Wisckol did a solid job of reporting the story of the recently completed economic impact study on Angels baseball and where it fell short. Detractors of the team and the City’s negotiations with owner Arte Moreno jumped on the story with gusto.
There are three takeaways from the stories in the Register and the one we published this morning and OJ blogger Greg Diamond’s take: a more detailed study is needed that fully addresses revenues and costs; that even a Chapman University economist said there is an economic benefit to having the Angels; and the willingness of Diamond to put words in council member Jordan Brandman’s mouth that he didn’t say.
First things first. A $30,000 study isn’t nearly enough money to answer all of the questions needed to get a clear picture of the economic impact of having a major league baseball team in Anaheim. Texas-based Conventions, Sports and Leisure is somehow portrayed, by Diamond, as being hired to provide a slanted report complete with a quote from Andrew Zimbalist, an author at a competitive Think Tank called The Drake Group and a professor at Smith College. Zimbalist’s signature work, “Sports, Jobs and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums” was written in 1997. Now Zimbalist is no slouch, but there are more recently academic studies on this issue.
According to Diamond, the key statement in the Register’s story is this: “Based on everything else I’ve seen CSL do, this is a promotional study,” said Andrew Zimbalist, co-author of “Sports, Jobs and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums.” “If CSL came out with a study that said Anaheim had no positive economic impact, they wouldn’t get any more work.”
CSL is very likely the nation’s leading firm when it comes to planning and consulting services to the convention center and sports stadiums/ballparks/arenas, and other entertainment industries (speedways) market. CSL’s client list is pretty amazing. CSL clients include 31 existing or prospective NFL stadiums (including two in Southern California), 37 college and university stadiums (Baylor, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona State, Kansas, South Carolina, Washington, Colorado, West Virginia and Notre Dame. They also include the Rose Bowl as a client.
For soccer, CSL has 23 clients in the pros including Manchester, UK, Juarez, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as six new MLS stadiums in the US. CSL represents 58 municipal arenas, 37 of which are proposed. They represent 42 NBA/NHL arenas including the Staples Center and the Honda Center, 30 collegiate arenas, 53 minor league ballparks/stadiums, and 29 major league baseball parks including a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays which began play in 1998 — the year after the last renovation of Angels Stadium. The Rays are building a new ballpark 15 seasons after they began play in their old one. The CSDL list of convention center clients and amateur sports complexes is pretty impressive and long.
Now according to the Register’s story, the study “makes generalized assumptions on consumer behaviors based on studies in other major league cities and uses formulas disputed by other economists. The zip codes of ticket buyers were reviewed but no Angels-game attendees were interviewed” and “Several economists and city officials interviewed said they believed that the team does provide civic and financial benefits for the city.”
CSL told the Register that Anaheim asked for a report that could account for the money generated by the Angels, but the report did not offer associated city expenses. In that respect the city got what it paid for. A new, more detailed and likely more expensive study that interviews Angels-game attendees is needed for a more accurate picture.
From the Register’s story: “The 12-page report credits the team with generating $204 million in new spending in the city and $4.7 million in annual revenue for the city treasury. The Register found that using the consultant’s assumptions, net city revenue drops to about $2.3 million when the expenses are accounted for.” So there’s still a positive economic impact once expenses are accounted for.
Now Diamond make much of Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi’s findings but neglects to state the economic impact report he conducted on the Angels was completed in 1996. This was before the last big stadium renovation and Diamond missed this key statement from Adibi:
“There’s no question there’s a positive economic impact,” Adibi said. “The question is what it is. And there’s no question that there are firms that do this kind of work and maybe it would be better to go to academics.”
Diamond cherry picked the Register’s story.
If I take any issue with the city it’s that they should have provided a bigger budget, more specifics and better timing for the research. This sort of research should be done from April to July, when the team is certainly still in contention and interest is high. And questions need to happen from the fans attending games as well as local hotels, shops, bars and eateries.
So even the Chapman economist says there’s a positive economic impact but determining what exactly it is isn’t easy.
From the Register: “Adibi’s 1996 study found that total new spending countywide, thanks to the Angels, was $106 million – or $160 million in 2013 dollars. He said increases in ticket prices and other costs that have exceeded inflation could conceivably bring that amount to the Texas consultant’s conclusion of $204 million – but for the entire county, not just for Anaheim as estimated in the $30,000 report by CSL.”
Since Diamond loves to use bold, italics and colors to emphasize his points, he calls “bullshit” on the report after cherry picking the Register’s story. He does inadequate research on CSL and paints an inaccurate picture of council member Jordan Brandman while making an argument for morality, immorality and amorality?
Let’s take apart Diamond’s list on Brandman (the pronoun “he” in the questions refers to Brandman):
- That he is fully convinced of the Texas report’s findings. (I am too; they reached the conclusions they did with the instructions they had; CSL was asked to gauge economic impact by revenue generated from the Angels, not assess the net after expenses. The report should have been more extensive but the fault of this lies with who commissioned the report from City Hall, not CSL.)
- That he absolutely believes them. (There is no reason not too; you can debate issues like hotel occupancy on tickets but I sure believe it occurs. I try to see games in other cities when traveling on business. If 9/11 didn’t happen, I had Braves tickets in Atlanta I was looking forward to using. I’m not the only one who does this and it’s not at all uncommon).
- That this is because they are a reputable source. (They certainly are based on years in business and client list; CSL has a solid business reputation. If they didn’t, there is no way they’d have the business they do now and have a considerable number of clients who have pending projects; define reputable Diamond? Is Mr. Fitzgerald, with his anti-Semitic and homophobic rants on behalf of a fake non-profit, reputable? Are jailbirds Jason Young and Vern Nelson, who admitted to drinking a couple of beers with Mayor Tait, reputable? They are when you push blog posts for promotion. I’ll take CSL over the Clown Car anyday.)
- That he respects the Chapman University economist cited by the Register. (So do I. The economist said the Angels have a positive economic impact on the community and I agree).
- That he nevertheless dismisses that economist’s statements out of hand. (He did not; he acknowledged it. You’re putting words in his mouth he never said. And I call bullshit on Diamond for suggesting it).
- That he respects people’s right to disagree. (We should all respect people’s right to disagree).
- That economists always disagree so the disagreement doesn’t bother him. (Brandman said, “Economists do it (disagree) all the time.” He didn’t say they always disagree. He said they do, because economists do, in fact, disagree. All one has to do to confirm that is read different economist’s views on Healthcare Reform. For example, it’s true that Tom Tait drinks with a convicted drunk driver. But it’s not true that Tait might have said, “another beer Vern?” Let’s not put words in anyone’s mouth).
- That the study is solid. (As solid as it could be; another one is needed that is more detailed).
- That he believes it. (On the main point, that the Angels contribute positive economic benefits to Anaheim and Orange County, so do I and so does Chapman’s Adibi).
Diamond concludes: “(One final note to my friends from my political party: if you think that we want ours to be a party that supports bullshit, I disagree with you. I think that rejecting bullshit is the only way that we survive as anything resembling actual Democrats in difficult terrain like Orange County’s.)
On this point, I couldn’t agree with Diamond more. It’s bullshit that he continues to promote a conservative Republican mayor who holds views completely contrary to the position of the Democratic Party on just abut everything. Diamond has even called for “as few personal attacks on each (Tait and Galloway) as possible.” I’m sorry, but this is someone who holds a position of authority in DPOC telling people not to attack a conservative Republican mayor, who openly supports a conservative Republican mayor for election to the Anaheim city council for 2014, and routinely goes after the highest vote-getter in the 2012 election — an elected Democrat? Support Republicans for offices that are truly non-partisan, like school board, but in a partisan race shouldn’t a DPOC official be on the side of Democrats?
As far as Brandman vs. Tait – on TV no less – Diamond asks for who decided on CSL based on what reputation simply demonstrates he thinks their some tiny consultant someone and clearly didn’t research the international clientele CSL has. Sloppy. The rest of his diatribe is frankly insincere. No amount of study, facts or alternate opinions will sway Diamond from not polishing Tait’s very tarnished armor.
There was once a lot to like about Tom Tait, with an emphasis on the word “was.” His own party recognizes his weakness. His former political allies recognize his weakness. And Tait’s acquisition of a new drinking buddy should please members of M.A.D.D. to no end.