The first guesstimates are in on how much additional money the Minnesota Twins raked in from Target Field, and they’re pretty substantial: Sports economist Andy Zimbalist ballparks it at $50 million, while Forbes magazine — which has a pretty good track record in these matters — says it’s more like $70 million.
Where’s the money coming from? Team Marketing Report estimates that the average expense per ticket at Target Field, including concessions purchases, is about $51.75, vs about $41.40 at the Metrodome last year. (TMR’s estimates are pretty fudgy — does every family of four really buy two team caps? — but are close enough for this kind of comparison.) The Twins drew 3,223,640 fans this year, vs. 2,416,237 last year. That’d be enough to bring in about $64 million in new spending, and that’s before accounting for things like increased ad signage and not having to share money with its state landlords, like it had to do under its old lease.
Now, at this point your first thought might be: If the Twins are raking in so much money, couldn’t they have built the damn thing themselves, instead of sticking local shoppers with a sales tax hike? Maybe, but keep in mind that stadium honeymoons typically don’t last that long these days — 5-7 years at best, two or three if your team is lousy — and most of that new money (almost two-thirds, by my reckoning) comes from increased attendance, not increased ticket prices, so the bottom line might look very different a decade from now. Also, it’s not clear whether the Forbes and Zimbalist numbers include the extra cash the Twins will have to kick into the league’s revenue-sharing plan, which could knock down their windfall by about a third.
To really establish whether Target Field could have paid for itself, we’d need to see the Twins’ books. Anybody have any friends at the Twins’ insurance company?