Cowboys/Yankees-owned consultants project giant impact for UNLV stadium, because of course they do

Last week was pretty busy, so let’s check if we missed any stadium news items in all the excitement over giant impaled light switches and whether the Oakland A’s will be evicted. Okay, here we go:

Study: New UNLV stadium could pack $511 million economic punch

I should just get right back in bed, shouldn’t I? But let’s soldier on:

The study is by Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, a subsidiary of Legends Hospitality, which in turn is jointly owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. (Legends was set up to run concessions at their new stadiums.) CSL is also UNLV’s paid consultant on how to get a stadium built, which would seem an unprecedented conflict of interest, except that they just did pretty much the same thing for the Los Angeles Angels.

If all that doesn’t give you qualms — and it clearly doesn’t bother the Las Vegas Sun, as they never bother to mention any of these facts in their article — we can proceed to the projections, which are that an open-air stadium hosting an estimated 27 events per year would have a $231 million annual direct economic impact, whereas a domed stadium would have a $511 million annual impact. And tack on about another 50% for indirect economic impact as well.

There are a number of ways to properly convey the insanity of these figures. We could, for example, look at the stadiums projected 50,000-seat capacity and do some simple division to determine that each and every event-goer would have to spend an average of $171, mostly at games of a college football team that is currently giving tickets away for free, in order to generate that crazy money. (It’d be $378 per person in a domed stadium.) Or we could wonder how many people would really visit Las Vegas just to see a UNLV game (or stadium concert or soccer match or whatever else this place would host) as opposed to those already in tow because it’s Las Vegas who would take in a game while there. Or we could compare CSL’s figures with this handy quote from an article today in the Wisconsin Reporter on the Milwaukee Bucks arena plans:

Major League Baseball reports Miller Park generates an estimated annual economic impact of $355.7 million. Nearly 60 percent of Miller Park attendees travel from outside the metropolitan area and spend $327.3 million a year, the MLB report says.

Milwaukee Area Technical College economic instructor Michael Rosen thinks those numbers are largely exaggerated.

“This is almost double the most successful stadium, Camden Yards in Baltimore, where less than a third of the crowd at every game came from outside the area and the net gain to Baltimore’s economy was roughly $3 million a year,”  Rosen said in an opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “Not much of a return on a $200 million stadium investment and not close to $327 million.”

The important thing to remember here is that “economic impact” numbers are garbage: All they measure is the total number of dollars changing hands in your city, which, as Holy Cross sports economist Victor Matheson memorably put it, could be like “an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.”

What you want are actual revenue numbers, and CSL already gave us those last month, when it determined (through lord knows what kind of math) that a UNLV stadium would turn a $13.9 million a year operating profit, which would barely be enough to pay off a quarter of the construction cost. There would, no doubt, be some new tax revenues as well — after you filter out the people who’d be in Vegas regardless — but it’s clear we’re looking at a much smaller figure than $511 million at this point.

Still, that’s the headline that the Las Vegas Sun chose to go with. Guess they were afraid of falling behind in the local stupid article competition.


4 comments on “Cowboys/Yankees-owned consultants project giant impact for UNLV stadium, because of course they do

  1. Every city with a population of 50,000 or more should build a sports facility. They make money magically appear.

    Say goodbye to any future recession! Depressions? Those are what teenagers get.

  2. Unbelievably stupid in so many ways, it’s mind-boggling. This is Las Vegas. As if anyone needed more reasons to come there.

    I’m certainly not coming there to watch UNLV games.

  3. For years I’ve been saying that economic impact studies are garbage. Just garbage. And it’s not just about sports stadiums. It’s about everything else too. Why don’t economists just admit “we don’t know the impact.” But I guess if they admitted that it wouldn’t justify their salary.

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