All-Star Game's payoff: Homer or a solid single?

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2012 - 11:11 AM

It's hard to guess the rewards coming to Minneapolis in 2014.

Major League Baseball's All-Star Game almost certainly will boost the local economy and the state's image when it comes to Minnesota in two years, but the impact might be relatively minor and difficult to measure.

Even as Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said on Wednesday that the game would mean at least $75 million in economic impact for Minnesota, local officials differed on the ultimate figure. Minneapolis Downtown Council president Mark Stenglein quickly predicted the impact could reach $110 million.

But Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was more cautious, adding that "I always use those as very rough guides and never take them literally, because how the heck can you ever estimate what it was?"

Even Twins owner Jim Pohlad said, when it comes to economic impact, "the optimists will say one number, the pessimists will say another."

In announcing that Major League Baseball would play the 2014 game at Target Field, Selig opened an annual debate over how much the game means to a host city. In contrast to the last baseball All-Star Game held in Minnesota, in 1985, Selig said that the event now covers six days of activity sandwiched around the actual game.

Three years after the All-Star Game was held in St. Louis in 2009, Brian Hall of that city's convention and visitors commission said local officials never have verified whether the $60 million estimate in economic impact proved to be accurate.

"There was no post-hoc analysis done," said Hall, the commission's chief marketing officer. "[But] we have every reason to believe that we accomplished the $60 million," he said.

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said the league usually leaves the actual figure to the host city, and Meet Minneapolis president Melvin Tennant said on Wednesday that every city uses similar calculations in arriving at its own estimate. Tennant's hospitality association estimated the impact at $75 million but did not -- as Selig did -- speculate the figure could reach $100 million.

Whatever the number, it was met with skepticism by Art Rolnick, a former Federal Reserve researcher in Minneapolis and outspoken critic of public spending on sports venues. Rolnick said that even should the figure be $75 million, it has to be compared to the staggering $280 billion annually that Minnesota produces in gross goods and services.

"If they start telling you how important this is for the state's economy, take that with a grain of salt," he said.

After Kansas City played host to the All-Star Game last month -- an event that left civic officials gushing -- nailing down the estimated $60 million economic impact has been no easy task. A city convention and visitors association spokesman said he hoped to have final figures in a month.

"I never confirmed" anything, added Toby Cook, vice president of community affairs and publicity for the Kansas City Royals, the host team. But "I heard $60 to $70 million, a lot."

Kansas City officials also said that -- as an example of the new ways interest is now measured -- the game was "the most social event in baseball history," with 1.6 million combined Twitter and Facebook comments for both the game and home run derby.

"I'd love to have it back again," said Tom Holden, who heads the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City.

Although Kansas City officials talked of the benefits that the nationally televised game would bring to the city, ratings for the game -- a blowout in favor of the National League -- were down from the game the year before in Phoenix. More fans overall watched the game -- 27.7 million, up 7 percent -- but the percentage of televisions tuned in dropped.

New York City officials, whose Mets will be the host of next year's game, already are estimating $191.5 million in economic impact, adding that 176,239 people will come to the nation's largest city for the mid-summer classic and related events.

Twenty-seven years ago, the All-Star Game was played at Minneapolis' Metrodome, which was then just 3 years old.

At the time, local officials estimated that the game would generate $15 million in economic impact and that Minnesota would get another $100 million in "free publicity" because national TV cameras would feature multiple summer scenes of Minnehaha Falls and aerial shots of the Minneapolis skyline.

In a sign of how the Twins might again try to capitalize on the game, the team in 1985 used the premium of an All-Star Game ticket to sell 5,003 season tickets -- more than double the amount from the year before.

But once the game came and went, there was little focus on what it actually generated.

Larry Abdo, the owner of the Nicollet Island Inn near downtown Minneapolis, said he doubted the All-Star Game would be a big economic winner for local merchants.

"We would be surprised if that game did more than [a] 5 percent or 6 percent increase at the most" in business, he said.

Still, Abdo said the All-Star Game might succeed on a more subtle level, selling viewers and visitors on the notion that the Twin Cities was worth visiting.

"Economically, if you were to get no bump in anything, but just [had] a bump in our reputation, that would be worth having the game here," he said.

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388

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