An economist who has studied the impact of sports stadiums says Rhode Island should be wary of committing taxpayer dollars to pay for construction on a new facility for the PawSox.
Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, says a new stadium could be good news for Providence, but the economic impact would likely be limited to the neighborhood right around the stadium. “There is some evidence that sports stadiums, at least at the major league level, do have a positive impact on local real estate values, so values within a tenth of a mile of the stadium,” said Matheson.
But he cautions that any new facility for the PawSox is unlikely to generate new economic activity for the state or even the rest of Providence. In his view, the move would simply shift economic activity from Pawtucket to Providence. Matheson said there’s little cross-border traffic rushing to AAA league games. “The vast majority of people who are going to minor league baseball games are local residents anyway, so it’s not generating a lot of new economic activity, but just shifting around how people are spending their entertainment dollar.”
Matheson added that baseball stadiums have limited uses in New England; as baseball, and other events, like concerts held there, require good weather. “With baseball, what’s important is that it’s a summer activity, [with] very few opportunities to use that facility over the winter. I don’t think anyone in New England would be thinking about playing baseball anytime for the last four weeks,” said Matheson.
As for taking the PawSox out of Rhode Island, Matheson said says he doesn’t see greener pastures nearby. He says Worcester has had difficulty attracting large crowds to its low level minor league team. “If I’m the new owners of the team, certainly I say hey, build me a new stadium or I’m going to go elsewhere. The real question is whether that’s a credible threat.”
The credibility of that threat is something local officials will have to weigh as they meet with the PawSox new owners to discuss the future of the team and their plan to move to Providence.
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