October 22, 2005
The fever builds

One of the things that I remember well from the Rockets' 1994 march to the NBA title was how for about a six-week period, everyone was wearing Rockets garb, and every other car you passed on the street had some kind of "Go Rockets!" slogan chalked on its windows. I was working downtown then, in a not particularly business casual atmosphere, and I still saw a lot of Rockets T-shirts, especially during and right after the Finals. A group of my coworkers and I even made a trek to the downtown Foley's (may it rest in peace) to buy shirts for ourselves during lunch one day.

It's still a little early, but I'm already starting to see the same sort of thing now for the Astros. Certainly, people are out there shopping for the goodies.


Fans continued today to dissect the World Series matchup with the White Sox over coffee and spent their breaks in long lines to buy something anything commemorating the championship.

Nicky Buford, 32, of Richmond, spent $294 on seven championship T-shirts, two hats, two foam fingers and a baseball at the team's Minute Maid Park store.

"We've been in Italy for the past five years," said Buford, whose husband is an Army officer. "To be back in the States and have this feeling is awesome."

The search for souvenirs began before the last pitch Wednesday for Pat Clark, who wanted 40 T-shirts for the employees of Vaughan Nelson Investment Management's downtown office. During the ninth inning, the human resources manager sped to an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in Pasadena.

Clark waited four hours for four shirts, the store's limit. After a two-hour nap, she stopped by Wal-Mart, Target and other Academy stores, finding nothing but lines.

At 8:50 a.m., she stumbled upon enough shirts for everyone at the Minute Maid Park store, which opened early.

"I walked in saying, 'Oh please, let there be shirts for me,' " Clark said. "We are so excited. This doesn't happen often."


I'm sure all that commerce will give the local economy a boost. Speaking of which:

Having the Houston Astros in the World Series may be a home run with fans, but hosting games probably won't score the same economic return as the 2004 Super Bowl, economists and local officials say.

That's because the two sports championships are vastly different events when it comes to generating tourist dollars.

Most Super Bowl attendees come from out of town, spending their money at hotels, restaurants and parties. As many as 100,000 people came last year. But it's mostly locals in their respective cities who attend World Series games, experts say.

Though some economists say impact estimates for major sporting events are inflated or difficult to prove, NFL executives and local organizers predicted that the Super Bowl would bring $300 million into the economy.


Is it just me, or is anyone else marvelling at the fact that nearly two full years after the actual Super Bowl occurred, we're still using the same damn estimates of its "potential" economic impact made months in advance of the event? Has nobody bothered to calculate what actually happened, or is it just that the real numbers are too embarrassing to publicize?

Though some economists say impact estimates for major sporting events are inflated or difficult to prove, NFL executives and local organizers predicted that the Super Bowl would bring $300 million into the economy.

That's much more than even the rosiest of estimates for the Astros' three scheduled games next week against the Chicago White Sox: anywhere from $20 million to $50 million, depending on who's doing the predicting.

"The World Series is not really much of a national event in the way that the Super Bowl is," said Victor Matheson, a College of the Holy Cross economist who studies sports events.

Still, even some economists say the NFL's estimates of the Super Bowl's economic impact are off the mark. Some say the local economic benefit of hosting a Super Bowl is zero. Others say there is some benefit, but maybe only $20 million to $50 million.

Matheson says the economic impact of a post-season baseball game, which is almost like guessing in a city as large as Houston, is about $7 million.


Well, at least somebody's willing to admit that this isn't an exact science.

Mayor Bill White's staff cited studies showing a range of $3 million to $10 million per game. Jordy Tollett, who heads the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the impact could be as high as $50 million.

White said excitement would be noticed more than any economic windfall.

"This is an opportunity for Houstonians to enjoy themselves and get together for a common cause," White said.


And some things never change. Leave it to Jordy Tollett to go overboard. I'm glad that Mayor White has a more realistic view of the real impact.

Let's just forget the numbers, since they mean less than batting average with runners in scoring position does. Play ball, have fun, and go Astros!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 22, 2005 to Baseball | TrackBack
Comments

If nothing else, the bars will be doing brisk business when the games are on. If Modell's (a Northeast sporting goods chain) were in Houston, people probably wouldn't shop anywhere else for the Astros T-shirts, caps, jerseys, etc.

Posted by: William Hughes on October 22, 2005 9:33 AM

I think the essence of the disputed numbers comes down to two items:
1) Do locals who spend extra during the event then cut back in other areas of spending locally, offsetting the gains?
2) Do people who otherwise would have visited the city avoid it during the event because hotel rooms get booked up and other hassles?

Of course, the sports leagues take none of the negative secondary effects into account because they want the biggest number possible. But economists have studied cities with major events and found no significant increase in sales or hotel tax receipts during event years vs. non-event years, esp. in tourist-focused cities (where any new visitors are just displacing others that would have come there, but are avoiding it during the event). Non-tourist cities like Houston tend to do a bit better, because we have a lot of idle hotel capacity that would otherwise go unused.

Posted by: Tory on October 22, 2005 9:53 AM