Friday roundup: D.C.’s ballpark boom, Rays’ stadium “ingenuity,” and other logical fallacies

You know how the New York Times now offers The Week in Good News, to remind you that not absolutely everything is awful? This is not that, not at all, though it does include a nice oblique shoutout to this site:

  • I think at this point just about every reader out there has emailed or tweeted me about this Washington Post article on development around the new Nationals stadium, variously headed “Ballpark Boomtown” or “The promise: Nationals Park would transform the city. Did it?” or “Nationals Park brings growth, worries to Southeast Washington.” The hook is that construction is booming around the new stadium — one former local opponent is even quoted as saying “Nats Park has been a tremendous boon to the region and the city and even to our neighborhood” — so doesn’t this disprove the idea that sports venues don’t create economic growth? The short answer: It’s hard to say from the anecdotal stories in this article, as it could be that the stadium sparked development that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, or it could be that it redirected development that otherwise would have taken place elsewhere in crane-happy D.C. (a point made in the article by economist Dennis Coates, who says, “This is not income growth; it’s redistribution”), or it could be that the Navy Yard would have gotten developed with or without the stadium. I’ve been poring over the big lists of logical fallacies and cognitive biases and haven’t yet found one that exactly describes the tendency to only look at what did happen thanks to a decision and not what would have happened without it; if this doesn’t have a name yet, the Stadium Catalyst Fallacy has a nice ring to it.
  • The city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky are projected to end up spending more than $1 billion in up-front costs and interest payments on the University of Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, and while that’s not the best way to determine public costs — really you want to translate future payments into present value, and include not just arena debt service but operating costs and what have you as well, a calculation that this Louisville Courier-Journal article doesn’t attempt — holy crap, one billion dollars is still an acceptable response. (Sports marketer Jim Host, who helped devise the arena plan, has his own response — “If you allowed yourself to be deterred by the negative aspects, nothing would ever get done” — which probably belongs somewhere on that logical fallacy list as well.)
  • Andrew Barroway, who bought half of the Arizona Coyotes in 2015 for $152.5 million and the other half in 2017 for $120 million, and who has complained that his team “cannot survive” without a new arena because of annual losses that are “not sustainable,” now wants to sell half the team for $250 million. Just think on that one for a while.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred thinks Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will get a new stadium built, despite not having any idea how to pay for one, thanks to his “creative ability and persuasive ability in terms of getting something done,” while Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper says “with ingenuity, solutions can be found” — like how about building school offices into a stadium and selling off school administrative buildings, huh, didja think of that one, smartypants? “There always will be naysayers who dismiss every idea and every project with cynicism,” writes Hooper — hey, it’s the Jim Host Fallacy!
  • Another Tampa Bay Times columnist, Daniel Ruth, had a far more acerbic take on the Rays’ stadium plans, boggling at the $892 million price tag for what would be MLB’s smallest stadium at a time when “public transportation is barely above the level of rickshaws.” Then he closed with the suggestion that Tampa could build “a museum dedicated to the history of architectural renderings of all the stuff that’s never happened,” called “the Field of Schemes Institute of Higher Chutzpah.” Which is a lovely thought and much appreciated, but shouldn’t it really be the Field of Schemes Center for the Study of Vaportecture?
  • Finally, huge thanks to everyone who kicked in toward the summer FoS Supporter drive — your generosity toward a site that delivers a daily dose of reminders of the world’s injustice remains a wonder to me. In appreciation, here is a video of my own cat leaping headlong into a seltzer box. Don’t ever say I don’t provide any good news here:


12 comments on “Friday roundup: D.C.’s ballpark boom, Rays’ stadium “ingenuity,” and other logical fallacies

  1. The Tampa museum should be the Field of Schemes Higher Institute of Technology (FoSHIT)

  2. I could break into my neighbor’s house and steal all their stuff. I might end up in jail…but if I allow myself to be deterred by the negative aspects…

  3. I thought you might like this one, too.

    https://m.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Warriors-vs-East-Bay-officials-who-will-win-13090018.php?t=ce4afda36b#photo-15892343

    It is a good point, why sell 30 year bonds, then sign the tenant for only 20? I’m not sure the County has a leg to stand on here. But the good news is that $40m over 10 years isn’t that bad. One more deep playoff run, I don’t think they’ll actually lose money. So this probably isn’t a huge decision, either way. Maybe the arbitrator orders the Warriors to pay $20m.

  4. Someday the Coyotes – allegedly a business – will be worth $1 billion without ever having turned a profit. I’m still searching in my econ theory books to figure that one out.

    Aha! Maybe my premise is wrong. They’re not actually a business. Just like my house, they have become more valuable just by existing.

    • Dave, don’t forget the incredible legacy value of being one of the NHL’s original 21 teams… and indirectly, one of the WHA’s charter franchises too.

      You just can’t put a price on that kind of history (Although Barroway apaprently thinks he can…)

    • This franchise reminds me of that Seinfeld episode:

      Went out to dinner the other night. Check came at the end of the meal, as it always does.

      Never liked the check at the end of the meal system, because money’s a very different thing before and after you eat. Before you eat money has no value.

      And you don’t care about money when you’re hungry, you sit down at a restaurant. You’re like the ruler of an empire. “More drinks, appetizers, quickly, quickly! It will be the greatest meal of our lives.”

      Then after the meal, you know,you’ve got the pants open, you’ve got the napkins destroyed, cigarette butt in the mashed potatoes – then the check comes at that moment. People are always upset, you know. They’re mystified by the check.

      “What is this? How could this be?” They start passing it around the table, “Does this look right to you? We’re not hungry now. Why are we buying all this food?!”

  5. Finding the perfect spot for a Rays stadium is going to be like finding the end of a rainbow: They’ll build a new stadium in the supposedly ideal spot, attendance will still be in the toilet, and then they’ll decide the truly ideal spot is a few miles down the road.

  6. “Post hoc ergo prompter hoc” (Latin: “after this, therefore because of this”) is a logical fallacy that states “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.” It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy.

    • That’s a good one, but it’s closer to “correlation is not causality” than what I’m looking for. I’m thinking more “because event Y followed X, Z (which was precluded by X) couldn’t have led to Y as well.”

    • It’s “Propter, not prompter, but you both have the meaning generally correct.

  7. Here is a nuts and bolts analysis of the ridiculousness of the Rays proposed stadium, titled “Grade F-: The Math Now Fails Even More for Rays’ New Stadium” posted at http://tampabaybeat.info/index.php/2018/07/16/grade-f-the-math-now-fails-even-more-for-rays-new-stadium/ .