Sports stadiums and local economic activity: Evidence from sales tax collections


Economics, Finance and Quantitative Analysis

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Though most studies find that sports stadiums are not strong drivers of economic activity in metropolitan areas, localized development effects may be sufficient to justify public subsidies for a host municipality if circumstances are favorable. This analysis examines the economic ramifications of an intra-metropolitan area relocation of Atlanta’s professional baseball team from a traditional standalone downtown stadium to a new stadium-anchored mixed-use development in suburban Cobb County. Using the synthetic control method, the study employs metro-Atlanta counties to construct a counterfactual outcome for estimating changes in sales tax revenue after the ballpark opened. The findings indicate a net increase in taxable sales in the county; however, the magnitude of the effect is small and not statistically significant. Though net new spending is evident, approximately one-third of the project’s sales appear to derive from crowding out other local economic activity. In total, added tax collections fall well short of covering the public subsidies provided by Cobb. The stadium’s limited economic impact, despite its favorable location and ancillary mixed-use development, further supports past findings that sports venues are poor investments as economic development projects.

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Journal of Urban Affairs

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