August 29, 2008
The Economic Power of the Red Sox?
Posted by Lisa Fairfax

The New York Times has a story about Sarasota, Florida's efforts to get the Red Sox to relocate their spring training operations to Sarasota.  And not really because of any deep loyalty to the Red Sox, but rather because Sarasota officials believe that such a relocation will significantly boost their economy.   As a result, officials have waged an all-out effort to lure the team.

Here's where I admit that I am a Red Sox fan, and I suppose I realized that many Red Sox fans tend to be serious about following and traveling with their team.  But it never occurred to me that a town--other than Boston of course--would seek to build its economic plans around the team.   Yet according to the New York Times article, Sarasota officials think that the team would boost tourism, encourage the growth of businesses, and maybe even increase real estate prices in the area.  Moreover, the New York Times article indicated that a study done for Sarasota suggested that the Red Sox would generate $46.5 million a year in economic activity.  So perhaps focusing on the team's relocation is not such a bad idea. 

To be sure, some Sarasota residents seem skeptical about building their economic stimulus plan around a professional baseball team.  And interestingly, yesterday hosts of a sports talk show were discussing the problem of low attendance at the Tampa Bay Ray's stadium--despite Tampa Bay's strong standings.  Their discussion indicated that there were a number of reasons for the low attendance such as the stadium's location, the slumping economy, ticket prices, and the possibility that the retiree community in Florida may simply be more likely to watch baseball games on TV than attend them in a stadium.  Their discussion, however, also revealed that economic revitalization is not a guarantee.  Though it could be a surer bet for a team like the Red Sox with a fan base that is both strong and willing to travel.  Of course it is not clear that Sarasota's efforts will produce results.  But even if it does not, their efforts certainly demonstrate the potentially significant economic impact that a sports team can have. 

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