Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Portland loves baseball

The Portland Sea Dogs and the City of Portland are looking to extend their current lease at Hadlock Field for another 20 years, which would take it through 2028. I predict this will be a slam dunk, because the city council will basically “rubber stamp” this and will continue to subsidize a private business.

It’s always been interesting to me how often good people suspend logic when it comes to something sacred, like their local professional baseball team.

I wrote about all of this before. In light of the pending vote by the City Council, it's probably worth linking to it again. It continues to amaze me that my well-researched and indepth article is the only one that bothered to look critically at whether the Sea Dogs offered any real benefit for the city.

Not surprisingly, the article in the Press Herald fails to go into any depth in analyzing the issue. In fact, almost all the comments echo support for sticking the local taxpayers with the task of subsidizing a millionaire’s business venture.


Joe said...

Here's an example of some crackerjack journalism:

"The proposed city budget for the coming year calls for spending $540,000 on Hadlock Field. LaChance said. That includes $293,000 for building maintenance, $100,000 for capital improvements required by the Sea Dogs' lease and $147,000 for field maintenance.

The city expects to take in $445,000 from Hadlock Field, including Sea Dogs' rent, [b]reimbursement for security and utility costs[/b] and parking fees. In the end, the baseball facility would cost taxpayers $95,394 in the coming year."

Umm, those security and utility costs aren't included in the "costs to the city" in the first paragraph, so it's probably not proper analysis to back out the reimbursement for same to get to a "net cost."

I'm a finance professional, but you don't need to be one to figure that out.

I reread your "In the Shadows" series, and it was quite good. I think that there are other parts of the city (like the Old Port) that do benefit from people coming from out of town. And while Terroni's doesn't get any additional business on game day, Pizza Villa (which has both seating and booze) certainly does. Also, several of the local businesses and others benefit from selling parking on their property on game days. But I go to a fair amount of games, and I try to spend as little as possible when I do - I avoid paying for parking, and I don't get food at the area businesses.

Several commentors on the Press Herald article make the dubious claim that the Sea Dogs bring "millions of dollars of business" into the city. That may be true, but I wonder how that comes back to the city's pockets? The city doesn't have a municipal sales tax or income tax, so additional sales or wages don't benefit the city. There are no new businesses in the Hadlock neighborhood that could specifically cash in on Sea Dogs patrons, so I really don't think property values have increased because of the Sea Dogs, not to the extent that the city recoups $100K in property tax revenues. Ballpark parking is already in the equation. I suppose folks hanging out in the Old Port before the game might pay for garage parking down there. But it's a real stretch, IMO, to think that the city isn't losing on this deal.

A couple of commenters also mentioned "liberal, anti-business-types" as wanting to increase the rent to the Sea Dogs. Social Welfare, bad! Corporate Welfare, good! WTF is wrong with this country?

Jim said...

The Coates and Humphreys study is an excellent one and is what made me want to take a close look at the renovation of Hadlock and whether, or not, the Sea Dogs are the economic boon to Portland that the city's marketing and PR people trumpet.

About one year after writing my article that ultimately disappeared down the rabbit hole, I found even more damning material in the stacks of the Portland Public Library, while doing research for "When Towns Had Teams."

There was a time when I thought being a journalist meant digging and doing the kind of on-the-ground work that we used to do at The Pigeon, which IMHO was one of the city's more unique publications. I know better now.

The Press Herald was a pathetic waste of trees back in 2004 when I wrote my article, it's even worse now. How Ms. Guttman can look herself in the mirror every morning and think that she's doing anything worthwhile is beyond me.

Does the city benefit? Of course, but not in the obvious financial ways that everyone assumes. In fact that is one of my points--negotiate a better lease and stop subsidizing a private business.

I heartily agree with your final point about how we malign the so-called "welfare queens," which is another myth that I'll impale at some point and cheer corporate welfare, like subsidizing a professional baseball team and this is done in city after city across the country.