So Charlotte County, Florida released one of those studies a couple of weeks ago that claimed to show that Tampa Bay Rays spring training games “generated an estimated economic impact of $20,978,500” in spending by out-of-towners, which I ignored because if I wrote about every one of these things, I’d never get anything else done. But now Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium has called up the author of the study and not only confirmed that the study didn’t try to account for visitors who would have been in the county anyway (since some people have been known to vacation in Florida in March), but got the study author to acknowledge that he doesn’t think spring training is that much of an economic boon at all:
[Walter] Klages’ response: His study sure didn’t take those things into account; it was never designed to do that.
He added that the majority of overnight visitors who went to Rays games while in Charlotte County likely came to the area for the beaches and weather. And while he suspected baseball was a factor, he saw it “more like dessert on the platter, rather than the (main course).”
University of South Florida economist Philip Porter, meanwhile, told Pransky that since the county’s economy has grown at the exact same rate as the state’s, he suspects that having Rays spring training in Port Charlotte has had zero economic impact — or even a negative one, since it’s gotten Charlotte County visitors to spend more of their money on a business that takes its revenues and ships them out of the county (known in economics as “leakage”). It all sounded so much better in the press release, but then, that’s the point of press releases.