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July 11, 2006

Blah, blah, blah

• If I could travel anywhere in the world, right now, this is most where I would want to go:

  1. Dublin, Ireland -- Like Michael Jackson, I want to see some leprechauns, and I'd love to see the factory where they make "Lucky Charms."
  2. Sydney, Australia -- I've heard the INXS Vacation package ("See where INXS recorded 'Shabooh Shoobah'!") is a must see.
  3. Beijing, China -- This would be so different than anything I've ever seen before, plus I like Chinese food.
  4. Istanbul, Turkey -- East meets West. I am of the opinion that this city would be non-stop, mind-blowing interesting.
  5. Budapest, Hungary -- The pictures I've seen, the things I've heard, the stuff I've read all tell me that this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Yep, if I could just go to one place, this would probably be it.

How about you? Where would you like to go?

• Oh boy, I'm about to again enter dangerous waters. Yes, I'm going to discuss the economic impact of baseball stadiums. Ack! Otherwise known as "the never-ending argument" where everyone has good points and no one backs down. Well, actually I don't really have much to discuss, only an article to point out from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. According to the article some highly intelligent people are suggesting that the Pittsburgh area will see $52.3 million in "direct spending by attendees and celebrants." And before you get your undies all in a bunch the article also discusses the viewpoint of the naysayers who say (in a nay kind of way) that Pittsburgh will only see a shift in money people would have spent anyway, and that some other cities that also hosted All-Star games actually saw a decrease in direct spending with the game in town. Hogwash, I say!

Let's turn a blind eye on on those morons for a second and look at a couple of things I think we all can agree on:

But for all the predictions of a business bonanza -- and counterstudies suggesting those hopes for financial payoff are more hype than real for the region's economy -- the biggest benefit from hosting the All-Star Game in the eyes of many civic leaders is the ability to shine the global light on the "new" Pittsburgh. National and international television exposure, word-of-mouth and other intangibles that come from showcasing a city that's going through a third -- and on the lifestyle front perhaps most important -- renaissance is not something that can easily be quantified.


"We will be getting the kind of exposure through the media that you can't afford to buy," agreed Bob Imperata, executive vice president of VisitPittsburgh, the nonprofit agency that recently changed its name from the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau and is charged with selling Pittsburgh to the world.

Can we all agree on that at least? Can we all agree that there will be more media attention on Pittsburgh with the All-Star game than there would be without it? Ha! I thought so. And if you can agree with that, then by default you must agree that baseball stadiums have a major economic impact on a city. My logic is flawless! Seriously, though, I think that the impact of the media spotlight is often overlooked as an extremely positive benefit to a host city, and not just concerning an All-Star game, but also by just having a MLB baseball team.

Quick! Name something interesting about Norfolk, Virginia ... perhaps even a reason you would want to visit there ... anything? Have you even heard of Norfolk, Virginia? Now, when I mention the city of say ... "Milwaukee" ... what do you think of? Here is the thing: the Norfolk area is larger than Milwaukee, yet people know a lot more about the Milwaukee area. I am of the opinion that having the Milwaukee Brewers, and the scores from their games broadcast on the evening news in every city across America every night, actually has a positive impact on that city. It is a big reason why the Norfolk area tried to land the Expos.

The second thing I think we can all agree on concerning the article above is that a lot of people from outside of the Pittsburgh area will be spending money in Pittsburgh this week. I know this will be a stretch for some of you, but can you deny it? No. And no matter what the amount, whether it is $50 million or $10 million, I'm sure the Pittsburgh area will benefit from it. Enough to justify building a $262 million stadium? Combine whatever added revenue the city will receive with the added media exposure, and add that with the community pride and "fun" Pittsburgh is having right now, and I think we would be hard pressed to find a Pittsburgh resident who currently thinks building PNC Park was a bad idea.

That's what I think anyway. I can't wait for Minneapolis to host an All-Star game. Seeing home run balls fly into the Allegheny River last night saddened me a great deal, though. What we could have had on the Mississippi!

Posted by snackeru at July 11, 2006 7:56 AM


Did you not have any pop-culture jokes for Beijing, Istanbul, or Budapest? C'mon. If I could go anywhere... I've had a strange desire to see Vancouver, among other Canadian cities. Also London. I guess language is big barrier for me (but not funny accents).

In regards to your Pittsburgh commentary, let me add that ticket prices almost doubled in the first year of PNC Park, in addition to the scarcity of seats. (So much for being family-friendly entertainment!) Fortunately, the team has been so poorly managed, there appear to be plenty of tickets available to current games.

Also, let me add that the city "marketing" aspect is highly overrated these days. What was once a special privilege to be "major league" has now become overkill, as we have 4 major sports with 30+ teams in each league, not to mention all sorts of major NASCAR locations, PGA-caliber golf courses, etc. It used to be that virtually anyone could name all of the "major league" cities, but now, even sports fans like myself would be hard-pressed to name all the above cities, much less ascribe significant value to them having a pro sports team.

The people most responsible for building businesses, creating jobs, and improving social infrastructure look far beyond the boxscores these days. There will always be cities like Norfolk that are trying to "get on the map" like this, but that's hardly a universal desire. What about all the successful communities across the U.S. and Canada that have no pro sports teams? Or even those that have (heaven forbid) only 1 or 2?

Seriously, how much "major league" difference exists between having one or two team and having 3 or 4? Would the Twin Cities be significantly less visible minus the Wild? Or the Twins? Or both? We've already seen evidence that multiple major sports venues here are struggling to be financially self-sufficient, given the in-market competition. And we want to add 2 or 3 more?

Posted by: spycake at July 11, 2006 9:34 AM

From Dave St. Peters Blog.....he is referring to the new St Louis Ballpark...

"and a split upper deck (which is the same design we would like to implement in Minnesota’s new ballpark)."

Does anyone know why they do this?

I personally don't like the design of a split upper deck. I think it looks awkward!!!

Is anyone a fan of this design?

Posted by: MOJO at July 11, 2006 9:38 AM

Careful with that ticket price info spycake. All MLB teams have significantly raised prices over the last few years, new stadium or not. Remember a few short years ago when the tickets now known as the "home run porch" were $6.00? They are now $17. Upper deck outfield tix are $6.00 now, they were $3.00 a couple of years ago. Since the Twins have raised tickets prices to match those in new ballparks, I doubt if they will raise them significantly when the new ballpark opens.

Posted by: freealonzo at July 11, 2006 10:48 AM

Aha! Take that spycake! I can't believe the half-truths you continually promote at my expense. Sheesh! Maybe now you'll let me just write my propaganda in peace!

(Note that I haven't addressed the rest of the points in your comment. Your mis-information on ticket prices has cast a dark shadow on all your writings. For shame!)

Posted by: Shane at July 11, 2006 12:14 PM

I'm specifically referring to the jump in ticket prices in Pittsburgh from 2000 (Three Rivers Stadium) to 2001 (the opening of PNC Park). The Team Marketing Report website is a great utility for this archived data (click on "Fan Cost Index" -- they have yearly data all the way back to 1991).

I've already been over this about the new Twins park, but essentially, they're eliminating all of the $6 Dome equivalent sections (also the location of the very popular $3 student tickets on Wednesdays). This price level does not exist anymore at ballparks with ~40,000 capacities.

This seat reduction will raise the "average" ticket price even if the rest of the price structure stays roughly the same, and more importantly, it will completely eliminate the ability to cheaply attend a pro sporting event. The next cheapest section at the Dome is currently $17 (apart from the token "family section" in the corner of the upper deck). I suspect that will be the baseline at the new park. If they continue the trend of "premium" games and "value" games, that figure may be even higher most nights. If we're lucky, we'll get to pay $10 for standing room only...

I know this is a "fact" of pro sports these days, but it's not a fact I'm willing to accept quietly. I wish, more than anything, that the recent stadium plan had included specific requirements for quantities and pricing of affordable tickets. I think that's entirely reasonable for a purported "public" facility.

Posted by: spycake at July 11, 2006 12:24 PM

I can't post URLs, I guess, so that's why I can't directly reference the ticket price data. TeamMarketing dot com is the site, and the Fan Cost Index is pretty illuminating.

Average Pirates ticket, 2000: $11.80
Average Pirates ticket, 2001: $19.51

A Google search for "three rivers stadium" and "ticket prices" also yielded an Seattle PI article where they said the 2001 Pirates jump was all the way to $21.48, or 82%. Either way, it's not good. (Miller Park opened the same year and saw a comparable jump)

Posted by: spycake at July 11, 2006 12:32 PM

Spycake, I'm not going to argue that ticket prices aren't going to rise between now and 2010, but I think you are exaggerating the impact. Here are the cheapest seats from a variety of clubs with new(er) ballparks:

White Sox - $7
Brewers - $5
Astros - $7 ($1 for kids)
Indians - $7
Padres - $12 ($5 Park Pass, no Seat)

Plus many of those parks had many seats in the $10 to $12 range as well.

Posted by: freealonzo at July 11, 2006 1:38 PM

Castle tour in Germany and Austria, that's my #1 place I would like to go. #2 would likely be Sydney at this point.

Make the stadium like the new Cardinals stadium, just put small TV screens that can be extended up from the seat in front of you so you can actually see the action.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at July 11, 2006 1:52 PM

Cheesy - I did a castle tour of Austria in 1987, it was tre cool. Lots of walking, not sure if I could do it again 19 years later.

I guess I'd like to share a secluded beach on Maui with Scarlett Johansson, hang out with Mick and Keith in London, search for Franz Kafka's ghost in Prague, do a pub crawl with Bono in Dublin, or hike the Appalachian Trail with Daniel Boone's ancesters.

Posted by: freealonzo at July 11, 2006 2:17 PM

freealonzo --

The prices you quote are a bit misleading. The White Sox cheapest ticket is indeed $7 -- on Mondays. They have 6 Monday home games all season. For the other 75 home games, that same ticket is priced between $14 and $23.

The Brewers and Astros tickets are in the corner of fourth deck, the Indians ticket is in the fifth deck (!), and I don't know why you'd quote a $5 standing room only ticket in San Diego -- you actually have to pay for the right to walk around for 3 hours and buy more stuff! I'm surprised you didn't mention the "Rockpile" in Denver -- fourth deck, and set back from deep centerfield, $4. Great view of the mountains, though, if you face away from the field (you can't see the field anyway, so it's just as well).

None of these tickets are as good of a value as the upper deck right field seats at the Dome for $6, which are being eliminated. Heck, even the left-field "Home Run Porch" which has skyrocketed in price will be shrunk considerably -- I think you can safely kiss goodbye the free Sunday kids tickets there (at field-level, no less!). Say hello to the fourth deck.

Yeah, it'll be cheaper than the other pro sports in town, but that's not saying much. I've always contended that for baseball games, there should be a fair number of tickets, suitable for family viewing (i.e. decent view from the outfield), for no more than an average movie ticket. The Metrodome satisfies these requirements -- what are the odds that the new park will?

Posted by: spycake at July 11, 2006 4:22 PM

As for Mick & Keith, I can't imagine they'd be all that entertaining anymore. Mick would probably be mowing his lawn, and Keith might ask you to help put up his storm windows.

Posted by: spycake at July 11, 2006 4:25 PM

I just paid over $50 for my family of four to watch a piece of burning rubble called Pirates of the Carribbean, eat some popcorn and twizzlers washed down with watered down coke on a gorgeous Saturday evening. That's 3 hours I won't ever get back. I'd gladly pay more than that to watch a competitive MLB team play on grass.

You are right about Keith and Mick. I change my wish to hang with David Beckham and Posh Spice in London.

Posted by: freealonzo at July 11, 2006 9:35 PM

I've been to Beijing. It would be interesting to see how much nicer it looks now due to the whole Olympic thing. At the time I had a professor from Hong Kong, and he claimed Beijing was his favorite city - beyond Paris, Venice, etc. I can't say I'd agree - haven't been everywhere. But my whole trip to Asia (also Seoul and Tokyo) was an extreme life-changing experience. I have a "page" on my blog that is intended to describe that trip, taken about 7 years ago. So far I only have 3 pictures up, however.

I would like to visit Toronto sometime. I sort of planned to go late summer, but I don't know if that's going to happen now. Machu Picchu is also a life goal. And I would like to go to Beunos Aires sometime, due to the cost relative to the experience. However, my understanding is that some knowledge of the Spanish language is a must there. I have some cousins living in Singapore - and they still have a house in New Zealand - so that's another option. Oh, and Fiji.

Posted by: bjhess at July 12, 2006 8:00 AM

"There will always be cities like Norfolk that are trying to "get on the map" like this, but that's hardly a universal desire. What about all the successful communities across the U.S. and Canada that have no pro sports teams? Or even those that have (heaven forbid) only 1 or 2?"
Spycake... your argument is empty when you make comments like this one without mentioning a specific city that fits your description. Are you talking about cities like Des Moines (driven by it... did not stop), Birmingham (driven through it... did not stop) or maybe Memphis (knew nothing about them until they got a team... I have now been there) I think on this point you are completely without a leg to stand on.

Posted by: zooom at July 12, 2006 9:02 AM

Sorry, zooom. I wasn't trying to omit, but I try to limit the length of my rants to reasonable levels. For successful communities without pro sports, the Norfolk region in Virginia has done very well for itself, even without a pro team. On the other coast, the "Inland Empire" a few hours east of LA and San Diego has been rapidly developed, without a sports team to call their own, although that's probably just the world's biggest sprawl. The Las Vegas metro area doesn't have a team and they're booming in a desert. If you don't want coastal, Winnipeg lost their team but they're still growing and doing quite well. And there are other cities/regions with only one pro team that are very successful, like Portland, Sacramento, Jacksonville, and your beloved Memphis. Expand that to two teams and model communities like Nashville and Vancouver (NHL, CFL) pop up.

I think a lot of this debate is chicken-versus-the-egg. Do pro sports put a place on the map, or does a place have to get on the map before it gets pro sports? It could just as well be reasoned that the leagues are locating where the development is, not the other way around. It's not as if Memphis was the equivalent of Des Moines before the Grizzlies suddenly arrived. To the average sports fan in Minnesota, maybe, but not to most business and community leaders.

Could these other communities still want pro sports, or desire to add more teams? Sure, but most of them aren't beating down the door to publicly finance four separate facilities.

I agree that a community of this size (Mpls-St. Paul) can and should support some major sports teams, but perhaps we're overstretched by funding four of them in the current manner. It would be tough as fans to lose a team or two, but I doubt our fine state would be much different if we hadn't landed the Timberwolves -- in fact, we might still have a favorable opinion of Kevin McHale if we hadn't!

Posted by: spycake at July 12, 2006 3:20 PM

I'm a Pittsburgh resident... Living (And doing everything) here is very cheap. You can currently go watch the buccos (Don't know why you'd want to) for $7 for the cheapest seats... I would say that the cheapest seats at PNC park are much much much better than the cheapest seats at any other park (and I've been to quite a few).
One reason the average ticket price went up drastically from 3 rivers stadium to PNC Park - The Pirates used to have $1 tickets for kids under the age of 14, which they eliminated with PNC park, and the cheapest tickets are now $7.

And - many of us still feel like building PNC Park WITH TAXPAYER MONEY was still not the best idea.

Anyway, look on flickr for pictures of Pittsburgh or here
to see a really beautiful vibrant city.

Posted by: sheel at July 12, 2006 10:08 PM

I added some more to my "where would I go" statement at my blog. Click the link on my name if interested.

Posted by: bjhess at July 13, 2006 7:54 AM

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