In a letter to the editior publish Saturday, Sports Consultant Robert Starkey laid into my column questioning the purported economic benefits of a new, public-financed baseball stadium in Miami.
Starkey reiterates the usual promises: Lots of jobs. Lots of snazzy new retail and hotel rooms in the vincinity of the old Orange Bowl. Taxpayers will realize lots of lucrative return for their $400 or $500 million.
But Starkey inadvertently proved my point. Scores of studies by independent consultants found that most of these grand claims never materialize. Economics professor Brad Humphreys, author of The Business of Sports, told a congressional committee two months ago, “There is no evidence in the large body of peer-reviewed scholarly research on the economic impact of professional sports facilities that indicates any professional sports facility construction project, or the ongoing operation of any such facility, has generated any tangible economic benefits in the local economy.”
Humphreys told me that team owners fend off real economists by hiring their own consultants who offer up wildly favorable studies that would never stand up to academic scrutiny. Starkey, in particular, would hardly qualify as an independent, unbiased voice in the stadium debate. His consulting agency has done work for Major League Baseball for 16 years. His relationship with Commissioner Bud Selig dates back to the mid-1990s.
Here’s a paragraph from a 2002 Village Voice article questioning the financial claims Starkey had produced on the worth of the New York Mets. “His dealings with Selig go back to at least 1995, when Selig was the official and active owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. That year, Starkey provided a glowing report to the Wisconsin legislature supporting public financing for a new Brewers stadium, estimating that the building would attract an additional 750,000 fans a year. Milwaukee's Miller Stadium opened last year, and Starkey's analysis isn't proving prescient. After a healthy initial season, attendance through the Brewers' first 50 home games this year was down 30 percent to 24,047 a game.”