Sports score big for the economy

Regardless of what critics say, the return of the NBA will be an economic slam-dunk for local businesses.

Andrew Johnson

In their most recent seasons, for better or for worse, neither the Minnesota Vikings nor the Timberwolves have been in the headlines because of their play. For the past month or so, there has been an NBA lockout and a debate surrounding the new stadium; local sports have been in the spotlight for reasons other than the sports themselves, displaying their influence as well as significance in our lives, especially economically.

It doesnâÄôt take a hardcore fanatic to see that athletics, both collegiate and professional, are given loads of attention. Whether this attention is deserved is often the subject of dispute, especially in an economic situation as shaky as the Vikings offensive line. Critics find reasons to object to the unjustifiable importance of sports, yet sports teams continue to withstand these tests of cultural integrity and worth. The reasons why go deeper than XâÄôs and OâÄôs and rooting for a team.

Whenever finances comes up, whether itâÄôs player contracts or stadium costs, detractors grumble over the amount of money thrown around to fund âÄúa game,âÄù particularly if itâÄôs for an underperforming squad. In fact, one of the main issues that held up the NBA labor negotiations was the disagreement over barely a percentage point of the revenue from games. Hundreds of millions of dollars are generated from these games every season, and to think that a bunch of rolling-in-it owners and prima donna hoopsters are squabbling over the likes of a 51 percent share versus a 51.2 percent share can be off-putting. It doesnâÄôt help when, as Timberwolves fans will undoubtedly recall from 2004, someone like Latrell Sprewell complains that a $21 million contract isnâÄôt enough to provide for his family. âÄúIf [owner] Glen Taylor wants to see my family fed,âÄù he said, âÄúhe better cough up some money.âÄù

While those sorts of claims are distastefully outrageous, itâÄôs important to recognize that finalizing these negotiations is actually doing more for the community economically than saving Spree from having to ration meals. For example, according to the Warehouse District Business Association, every T-Wolves home game brings in $1 million to $2 million to downtown Minneapolis businesses, through parking, dining, souvenirs and other services. They will have lost about $26 million until the season gets going again.

As for the Vikings, remember when the team was forced to relocate to Detroit for a âÄúhome gameâÄù following the Metrodome roof collapse? The estimated loss for the Twin Cities from just one random and meaningless game in December was about $9.1 million dollars. Those profits bring increased employment, more shifts and additional tips. Look no further than campus for proof; despite uninspiring results, think of the stimulus that TCF Bank Stadium has brought to Stadium Village âÄî from the popularity of Buffalo Wild Wings to other newly opened establishments.

In 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a letter to Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis (yes, that was really his name) encouraging the continuation of baseball during World War II. âÄúI honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going,âÄù Roosevelt wrote, not only for lifting morale amid domestic and international turmoil, but because âÄú[t]here will be fewer people unemployed âĦâÄù due to the economic impact of the sport.

Whether so much money should be wrapped up in and dependent on a bunch of guys running around in gym shorts and high-tops or purple helmets and eye black is another conversation. The reality is that weâÄôve chosen to value this form of entertainment âÄî in the same way we do live theatre, concerts and cinema âÄî and maintaining it allows for opportunities beyond those that weâÄôre paying to watch.

 

Andrew Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]