Does the World Series make an economic mark?

Having a favorite ballclub in the World Series gives hometown fans bragging rights. But does it also bring economic benefit?

John Angelillo/UPI
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Pedro Martinez speaks to the media Tuesday before the Phillies face the New York Yankees in the World Series. Several hundred media members will descend on New York and Philadelphia for the Series. But what kind of economic impact do visitors have during the Fall Classic?

What's as American as baseball and apple pie? Trying to figure out how much apple pie you could buy with the revenue from your team's appearance in the World Series, of course.

New York City's Economic Development Corp. believes the World Series is worth $15.5 million per game. The Philadelphia Sports Congress estimates that the city will take in $10-12 million when the best-of-7 contest shifts to Philadelphia for games two through five.

(The City of Brotherly Love may have the sweeter end of the scheduling deal as the host of the only two weekend World Series tilts.)

But how do you determine how much coin the Series really generates?

According to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation, visitors bring the Philadelphia region $9.3 billion per year. At almost $25.5 million per day, a $10-12 million boost over three to five days (depending how long fans stay in town) seems more like a drop in the bucket than a powerful economic boon.

But economists Victor Matheson and Robert Baade argued in a 2005 study that examined baseball's playoffs from 1972-2001 that World Series economic impact studies are often way off. They write that economic growth of the entire playoffs, not just the World Series, was typically "not statistically significantly different than zero." Even with the data, they offer a best guess of the impact of each World Series game at around $6.8 million.

Matheson and Baade point out that economic impact studies are tricky because they struggle to recognize whether spending is genuinely added or if dollars were simply reallocated. These studies struggle to contend with issues like accounting for what tourists would have visited the city anyway or the depressing effects of clogged public transit and packed restaurants on the locals.

Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, says that by focusing the city's predictions on those visiting Philadelphia, the city's estimate does its best to avoid overshooting the mark. In a year when fans can take the roughly 2 hour drive between the cities, this perspective may be particularly accurate, he says.

Still, there is one impact that is certainly a part of the World Series experience: civic confidence. By emphasizing the perception that the economy is flourishing, sports championships of all stripes can buoy a population emotionally.

"It all builds on itself," Mr. Needle said. "There's no question that all of that snowballs year to year and the positive energy and the self esteem that that generates for the citizens of the region, I think, is real."

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