Stadium would be big win, study says

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: July 27, 2011, 8:57 PM

 
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The economics of baseball

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A glowing economic analysis of a proposal to build a $22.7 million stadium at Clark College estimates the project would generate $206.5 million over the expected 20-year term of the public-private investment.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council, which commissioned the study, passed a resolution supporting the project.

The proposal has drawn criticism because it would be partially financed with a countywide 5 percent admissions tax.

The $206.5 million figure includes $34.5 million from construction, $4.6 million annually from the Yakima Bears and another $4 million annually from using the stadium to host regional and national tournaments.

Short Season LLC, the owners of the Yakima Bears, announced plans in May to move the team to Vancouver to fill the void left by the Portland Beavers.

When the Beavers left for Tucson, the Portland area became the largest metropolitan area in the country with no professional baseball team.

The closest squad, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, has seen attendance increase 27 percent.

“The Bears should be able to draw greater per game attendance than the estimated 2,900,” the study says. “It would not be unreasonable to see average per game attendance closer to 3,400-3,500.”

As part of the move, Short Season LLC asked county commissioners to impose the admissions tax to fund a 70-30 public-private split to build the stadium.

On Tuesday, commissioners, while saying they would like to hear funding alternatives, voted to proceed with negotiations with the team.

The team has committed to paying ongoing maintenance and operations costs of the stadium, which would be built east of Interstate 5 on the current site of Clark College’s baseball field.

On Monday, the Vancouver City Council had a workshop on the proposal.

A majority of councilors expressed concerns about the admissions tax.

The tax, for example, would boost the cost of a $10 movie ticket to $10.50. Critics have said it’s not fair to force other operators of entertainment venues to contribute to a stadium that would be competing for discretionary spending.

The study says the Bears’ single game ticket prices are generally the lowest in the Northwest League. Critics of the admissions tax have suggested the team raise its prices in lieu of relying on a tax.

“The Bears’ $200-$250 full season price is also the lowest priced in the league,” the study says. “The Bears are planning on game day single ticket prices of $7 and a variety of season ticket prices ranging from $340 for full season equivalent plans to $950 for full season club seats. The proposed pricing structure appears to be within comparable markets.”

Councilor’s concerns

Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman said Monday that he thought the idea of bringing baseball to Vancouver was “fabulous” but he opposes using admissions tax revenues for a stadium.

Burkman noted Wednesday that the study estimated $4.1 million a year in annual business revenues from Clark County spectators and $500,000 a year from fans coming from Portland and other cities south of the Columbia River.

The Clark County spending isn’t new money coming into the community, Burkman said, but rather a redistribution of money that people could have spent at the Clark County Fair, Washougal Motocross, Sleep Country Amphitheater or other venues that could be taxed to support the stadium.

“That to me is not an economic benefit,” Burkman said.

Burkman said he’d like to see a study of what else could be built in the county with admissions tax revenues if the money was put into infrastructure.

The construction revenues would be identical, he said.

“That’s a conversation I don’t see here,” Burkman said.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart said the study shows the proposal has merit.

“There is clearly great economic and community benefit to this proposal, the challenge will be matching a community investment with the benefit and I look forward to working with partners at the city and the college and in the community to identify alternatives,” Stuart said.

The commissioners will have a work session Aug. 24 on the financing component of the proposal.

Study details

The study estimated admissions tax revenues of $1 million annually, while the county has estimated revenues closer to $900,000.

According to the analysis, which was done by Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee & Company of Vancouver and Paul Dennis of Cascade Planning Group of Camas, the benefits of a stadium include 280 construction jobs, a dozen full-time positions and 120 to 140 game day part-time positions.

According to a summary of the study, “the overall economic impact over a 20-year period is $6.3 per public dollar invested, or $4.6 per public dollar invested post-construction, or 630 percent or 460 percent return-on-investment respectively. With the forecast additional activity from 10 to 15 tournaments, returns could rise to $10 to $8 per dollar invested.”

The Yakima Bears would play 38 home games, and the facility would be used by Clark College teams and the community.

The study estimated that the stadium “would likely serve as a championship facility for sports tournaments at the youth, high school, collegiate, semi-pro and amateur levels. It could accommodate multiple sports, including baseball, softball, soccer and youth football, and augment recent commitments by Vancouver USA Tourism to actively recruit tournaments to the region.”

“Based upon our analysis, we believe the region can comfortably support a Single-A baseball team in Vancouver,” Dennis said in a statement released with the study. “We also believe the economic impact of a multiuse facility is boosted by the presence of a professional baseball franchise that is prepared to serve as an anchor tenant and pay a portion of capital and pay for maintenance.”

The study was released late Wednesday afternoon by the CREDC.

“The team is comfortable with the findings,” said Ron Arp, spokesman for Short Season LLC. “The study documents significant economic impact surrounding creation of a multiuse facility and confirms that the project size, scope and location is reasonable.”

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.