Oh, look, it’s an article about how much economic impact resulted from a sports-related event, this time the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia. If you were guessing the answer is “gobs and gobs” and that the study was conducted at the behest of the local tourism bureau, you are a winner:
A record 250,000 fans attended the three-day event held along the Ben Franklin Parkway, with $56.1 million spent at the event, resulting in an estimated $94.9 million in economic impact for the city. Initial projections and estimations put the impact around $80 million. The event also created 30,000 jobs during and leading up to the event.
Let’s do a sniff test on this. A quarter-million fans spending $56.1 million over three days is $224.40 per person, which sounds a bit high, but sure, maybe? And spinning that out into $94.9 million in economic impact would then be reasonable, since money gets re-spent through the local economy as sports bar waiters go home and buy groceries with their tip money, etc. As for 30,000 jobs, it sounds like that counts temporary positions, so it could well be true, if not necessarily that impressive.
Except: There’s our old friendly bugaboo, the substitution effect. How many of those 250,000 fans were locals who would have been spending money in Philly regardless? And how many out-of-towners displaced other out-of-towners who steered clear of the city because it was crawling with NFL draft fans? I can’t find the actual study — the NFL didn’t bother to link to it in its press release — but there’s no indication that the study’s authors accounted for any of this. And in fact, not only economists but hotel operators have thrown cold water on these estimates, with the director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association comparing the draft to “a large medical convention that doesn’t quite sell out the city, but does well.”
None of which means that the NFL draft has zero economic impact, or isn’t worth hosting (depending on the price for your city, obviously). But news organizations — I’m looking at you, CSNPhilly, assuming you consider yourself a news organization — do have at least some responsibility to note the caveats that come with tourism-board-issued economic claims. A nice big “RATING: UNCONFIRMED” would do nicely.