Dunedin Blue Jays spring-training study fails to understand how hotel rooms work

The Pinellas County Commission is preparing to vote on a request from the Toronto Blue Jays for $81 million in upgrades to their spring training facility in Dunedin — I know, I don’t know where you find $81 million worth of upgrades to a spring-training park either, but anyway — and Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium has delved into the economic impact projections that the team is using to justify the public expense. A previous city report projected $80 million a year in annual economic impact from the Jays’ presence, a figure that’s tough to jibe with numerous studies showing the actual effect of spring training teams on spending to be near zero; Pransky previously revealed that that study had assumed that anyone visiting Dunedin in March was there for baseball, which, um, no.

So is the new report by the city of Dunedin (the Jays paid half the cost) any better? It claims to only count tourists who said they were there just to see baseball, which is an improvement. However, it still counts every ticket sold as one added hotel room sold — which is wrong both because visitors may attend more than one game per trip, and also because hotel rooms can hold more than one person each:

The new report projects $21.4 million in annual economic spending, which at current hotel and sales tax rates means only $1-2 million a year in actual tax receipts, and if you then have to divide by 6-8 … let’s just say nobody in Pinellas County should be planning on seeing that $81 million again.

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11 comments on “Dunedin Blue Jays spring-training study fails to understand how hotel rooms work

  1. “However, it still counts every ticket sold as one added hotel room sold”

    Its also wrong because a significant number of tickets are sold to locals, who are presumably not getting hotel rooms either.

  2. I *think* it meant every ticket sold to an out-of-towner, but I can’t check the report right now. Noah, if you’re reading this, do you have details?

    1. Yes, specific to supposed ST primary visitors was what was meant (though there is double counting with some other visitors, too).

      Meant to reply here but did a full comment below.

  3. The report does separate the “out-of-state” (who generally spend more money and use lodging) vs. “out-of county” Floriday people who generally are not using lodging (they spend a lot less money). They do not seem to analyze in-county presumably for substitution effect reasons.

    There are still problems with this breakdown though. First, I do not believe the apportioning of the majority of visitors to “primarily there because of spring training” for a whole bunch of reasons (including I usually visit Dunedin/Clearwater during Spring Training myself). The notion that more people are there “primarily” there for baseball vs. weather/beaches defies everything I have observed in the last 15 years. (The average group is staying over a week from out of state but I doubt they are going to every game available which may well be Brian Mills 140 character point above).

    Second, I see that Neil notes the impact of Bluejays at $21.8 million which appears to be the total “primarily” spring training identified visitors spending divided by 2 (because the Phillies also have spring training nearby). I do not know if the split is 50/50 but I can tell you from the few games I have gone to in Dunedin and Clearwater there are a lot of non-Phillie and non-Bluejay fans (there was a large party of international visitors–not Canada!–who were not Bluejays fans at the game I went to two years ago). That is and this relates to the point above–you may go to a game because you like baseball and even want to identify as someone there primarily there for spring training but that does not mean you are going to go to a Bluejay game. You could be a visitor going to one game during your week’s vacation and not having a Dunedin stadium could simply mean going to more Phillies’ games or Rays games or Yankees games.

  4. Ah this garbage again. Why do people take these things seriously? They are so bad.

    Yes every person who comes to event C is solely here for that reason and none of that spending would be here anyway…

    Our zoo tried to pull this crap a couple years ago. Counting 100% of ticket buying visitors as solely here in the metro to see the zoo, which is so absurd it is farcical. The legislature bought it though, as did the local media.


  5. Yes, I meant to an out of towner that explicitly notes they are there for ST. There is no accounting for the overlap in attendees and groups (each ticket sold to a person in this category is counted as a unique group of 3) not is there a consideration of attending more than 1 game on a visit (seems reasonable to assume, since they supposedly came for spring training primarily and wouldn’t come otherwise). So if we account for overlap (my 2 friends that came to FL with me are probably at the game, too) and assume We go to just 2 games on our visit, then that reduces things by a factor of 6 or so.

    Strangely they count hotel room nights in the report and then just ignore it in favor of their bad math on % of attendance/tickets.

  6. Does it count hotel rooms 100%? It shouldn’t because if there is no spring training most of those hotel rooms would be rented anyways, just at lower rates. There would be more golfers or vacationers taking advantage of the vacancies.

  7. Just remember kids, no one pays good money for an economic impact study that says their project is a bad idea! And consultants with unhappy clients are unemployed!

    1. The sad thing is that a lot of time these can come from academic institutions, and are 90% as bad as the private ones.

  8. If I remember right, the Jays desire for ‘upgrades’ was mostly due to the small footprint of the site. It has just one ST stadium, popular opinion now being in favour of multiple practice fields and potential sites for “split squad” games. Last I heard, their new training complex was going to be much larger than the present setup. $81m is still a lot of cash, obviously, but it’s not just upgrades to the existing stadium.

    With the Jays playing well and the club’s fans travelling about as frequently as any other group, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that this demand hits high volume this year. But the alleged economic impact is garbage. Some Canadians will absolutely visit Dunedin because the Jays are there. What we don’t know and can’t know is how many would go to Dunedin anyway.

    Even if that $81m does bring more Jays fans down, politicians should have asked what else they could have done with $81m to spur actual economic development year round, not just for 6-8 weeks in Feb/Mar. Pretty sure they could have found something with a better chance to actually create new jobs, not just hold on to a few part time seasonal ones.

  9. What never made sense to me when I was living in the area when the Phillies built their stadium:


    Seriously? They couldn’t have had the county, two teams, and two cities combine on a stadium and then put the practice complexes deeper in their respective cities?

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