Estimating the Fiscal Impact of Stadium Developments: Evaluating a Pro Forma Model


Economics, Finance and Quantitative Analysis

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Although researchers have demonstrated conclusively that sports stadiums are not economic development catalysts, stadium projects that include preplanned ancillary developments have been proposed as a salutary strategy to overcome the widely observed dismal economic performance of standalone stadiums. Using an objective rubric for evaluating economic impact studies, we review a commissioned pro forma model that claims to demonstrate net positive fiscal impacts of two prominent publicly-financed stadium-anchored developments. Using assumptions informed by existing research and established discipline standards, the model estimates substantial negative returns for both projects (−$40 to −$60 million in Worcester, Massachusetts and −$100 to −$200 million in Cobb County, Georgia). We find that the reported fiscal surpluses derive from chosen assumptions and not the stadiums’ complementary developments. We conclude that pro forma estimates do not provide credible forecasts of fiscal impacts, and ancillary developments do not improve the fiscal returns of stadium projects.

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Public Finance Review

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