Professional Sports Facilities: Worth The Investment?

Posted on October 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Did you follow the record setting pennant race involving the minor league baseball franchise Bridgeport Bluefish this past season? Were you in the stands at Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard for the final exciting moment of last week’s championship game?

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball has posted an image of the championship celebration at the moment of victory last week. In that official league photograph, the count of empty seats at field level appeared to outnumber the head count of fans by a multiple of ten to one.

Is this the level of interest and support that the State of Connecticut and City of Bridgeport had in mind when they each contributed $8 million to build the ball park during the late 1990s? Or would that money have been better invested in other endeavors?

At the moment, the fledgling minor league football franchise Hartford Colonials appears to be drawing somewhat more fans to its games in state-financed Rentschler Field. However, the Bluefish actually did draw large crowds when they first began play; it remains to be seen whether the novelty of minor league football will fade over time as well.

From a management accounting perspective, how should our state government measure the public’s Return On Investment (ROI) in its professional sports facilities? Should it be based purely on financial returns? On levels of fan interest and support? Or on some other qualitative criteria?

Contributed by Michael Kraten, PhD, CPA, Accounting Professor at Providence College and President of Enterprise Mgt. Corp.

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