September 9, 2008
One of the perennial questions about public funding for professional sports stadiums is how much those structures end up adding to the value of the (privately-owned) franchise. This summer, Forbes magazine had a special issue on "Sports Money: Baseball." They estimated the franchise net worth, and the share of that total accounted by, respectively, Major League Baseball (revenue sharing), the regional market, the stadium, and the team "brand." Their methodology is vague, but some of the results are interesting. The highest-value franchise is, of course, the New York Yankees, estimated to be worth $1.3 billion, and the Mets are number two, at $824 million. At the bottom of the scale are the two teams from the Sunshine State: Tampa Bay Rays ($290 million) and Florida Marlins ($256 million).
One thing that surprised me is that more teams own at least part of their home stadium than I would have guessed. Four National League franchises own their stadiums outright (Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, and Cardinals), and two American League franchises do (Red Sox and Blue Jays). In addition, three National League franchises have partial equity stake in their stadiums (Astros, Padres, and Brewers), but the magazine doesn't say how big a share.
As for ballparks' share of total franchise value, about half (14 of 30) of the stadiums fall in the 20% to 25% range. The lowest estimate is for the Florida Marlins (Dolphin Stadium, 10%), which is not surprising, and the highest estimate is for the San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park, 29%), likewise just as expected. I was surprised, however, by the low estimates for New York's Yankee Stadium (18%), Pittsburgh's PNC Park (16%), and Washington's Nationals Park (19%). The latter may be due to insufficient data. There seems to be no clear relationship between each stadium's cost of construction and its economic value to the franchise. In the future, I will include some of this data on individual stadium pages and/or some of the stadium comparison pages.
In the mean time, I have made a long-overdue update of the MLB Franchises page, using the franchise valuation data as estimated by Forbes and information from other sources. That page now has a stronger focus on stadiums than before, and is chock full of those dynamic rollover effects I'm so fond of. In addition, the chronological maps showing the spread of baseball across the continent have been updated with the full team names, rather than abbreviations. It's more cluttered in the northeast than before, but overall is much more clear and informative. Enjoy!
My recent injury roundup suggested that Mets' closing pitcher Billy Wagner might resume pitching duties next week. NOT! He is having surgery on his elbow, and will miss not only the rest of this season, but possibly all of next year as well. See MLB.com.