Baseball economics 101, science fiction meets science reality, the death of the ash tree, no outcry over $4 gasoline, and is it too soon for Christmas decorations?
Everything anyone needs to know about ballpark economics, one can see in this picture, uploaded to his Facebook page by the Star Tribune's Howard Sinker during last night's Twins' loss at Target Field (Update: Here's Howard's blog post).
I noticed roughly the same sort of crowd on Monday night, when the weather was much warmer.
Last year, the Twins were fourth in attendance in all of baseball, averaging more than 39,000 fans. This year, they've slipped to 12th.
A new stadium gives you a three-year "bounce," in which people just want to experience the place, pretty much regardless of the quality of the team. But the Twins said they needed to replace the Metrodome in order to "stay competitive" in the baseball economy.
That hasn't worked. After spending a chunk of change on Joe Mauer and
Joe Justin Morneau, the team is heading for back-to-back 90 loss seasons and people have stopped going to the park. The construction jobs the public expenditure provided ended years ago, area businesses don't benefit from it if people aren't at the park, and -- most important -- the Twins and other baseball teams have shown that if they don't have revenue, they don't spend significant money improving the team, possibly prompting a spiraling cycle. See Indians, Cleveland.
Against the reality of an empty Target Field comes today's MPR story on public spending for a downtown Saint Paul ballpark for the Saint Paul Saints. Curtis Gilbert reports that an analysis of the economic impact on the city suggests the benefit is a fraction of what the city claimed in applying for taxpayer assistance.
A few analysts suggest that it was pure guesswork, and bad guesswork at that.
State officials will announce today whether the ballpark project will get bonding money from the state. It's considered a shoo-in.
Did I miss them showing the iPhone 5 furthering humanity's reach into the cosmos and fulfilling the dreams of a generation?— SarcasticRover (@SarcasticRover) September 12, 2012
The Sarcastic Mars Rover -- one of the best Twitter accounts on terra firma -- interviews the actual NASA person who drives the actual Mars rover. Let this sink in for a second before you click here to read it.
There's a rover on Mars, and some poor guy in Honduras has similar dreams of great deeds, but fewer resources to chase them...
Should communities be destroying healthy trees on people's property because the emerald ash borer might one day arrive? The Pioneer Press raises the question via today's article detailing Cottage Grove's plan to cut down ash trees on private property.
Like many communities, Cottage Grove turned its corn fields into houses years ago, planting mostly ash trees because they grow quickly and cover the ugliness of vast fields with houses. Now, the city may return to that state with its policy.
"I will do whatever is in my power to protect my property," said Rick Pedrow, who has a doomed tree.
But while the trees are on what appears to be private property, they're not owned by the homeowners. They're planted on easements by the side of the road.
When officials finally find the emerald ash borer, it's usually already been in the tree for five years.
Replacing the tree with another one presents a problem for homeowners: they won't return their property to the former glory until long after the homeowner is dead.
Gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon in Minnesota this week, months after the "experts" said it wouldn't this summer, and there's been almost no reaction to reaching the benchmark.
"This is a temporary thing, in part due to the fact that some refineries were down during Hurricane Isaac," said Mark Meyer, president of Keck Energy of Des Moines, a gasoline supplier, tells the Des Moines Register.
Next to the West Coast, the Midwest has the highest gasoline prices in the nation -- 22 cents a gallon more expensive than where Hurricane Isaac actually struck, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In Rochester, meanwhile, the Post Bulletin carries the story of the Cameron family, who drive a natural gas-powered Honda. "I was a little bit of a naysayer because of the extra up front costs," Karen Cameron says. About $12,000, in their case.
Napkin-math time. At $4 a gallon, you could buy 3,000 gallons of gasoline. At 25 mpg, that would provide 75,000 miles of driving, or about 6 years for a typical vehicle, before recovering the initial investment.
How could the option catch on as a viable alternative?
On his Facebook page, Mike Binkley of WCCO submitted this documentation of what was going up at the Neiman Marcus store
at Bloomington's Mall of America downtown.
"Too soon," a follower on Twitter reported. But is it? If the stores are pushing Christmas ever earlier, there is presumably some evidence that customers are buying ever earlier too.
Bonus I: It's wild rice-harvesting season in Minnesota:
Bonus II: A street preacher's visit to Northrup Mall at the U of M. (MN Daily)
Bonus III: A distant war. A photographic assessment of Afghanistan. (NY Times' Lens blog)
Bonus IV: An embassy, a statement, and a major misunderstanding. How Twitter might've made things worse yesterday. (Washington Post fact checker)
McDonald's says it will begin posting calorie counts on all its menus starting next week, and will offer new foods like egg white McMuffins and more seasonal fruits and vegetables. Today's Question: Do you take calories into account when eating at restaurants?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: What really works to help homeowners in trouble?
Second hour: a new Mayo study shows that doctors have a much higher burnout rate than any other profession. What does that mean for patient care and how will the problem be addressed as the population ages and more and more people require medical care?
Third hour: Krista Tippett civil conversations.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live broadcast of the National Press Club luncheon featuring James Hoffa of the Teamsters union.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - TBA
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR's series on Lost Recipes continues with a crunch-off. Two people -- two pickles -- and the results of the kitchen detective's project to fill in the blanks of a long-lost family recipe.
Of course the ballpark/stadium economics claims are faulty. There is no price to pay for using misleading or bad information. They are used by sports talk stations and newspaper publishers to justify public investment. The truth had a hard time breaking through the misdirection.
If you believed it for Twins/Gophers/Vikings why not believe it for the Saints.
I have long been opposed to taxpayer-funded stadiums for professional sports teams. Yet, for reasons I can quite understand myself, I don't feel bad about a new Saints stadium.
Perhaps because they have more of a "blue collar" vibe than the other pro sports teams.
I'm too feel less bad about the Saints Stadium. I mean, Bill Murray, amirite?
"How could the option catch on as a viable alternative?"
I don't think that's the right question, Bob. While I tip my hat to folks like the Camerons for buying a CNG Honda Civic, I don't think these vehicles will replace the gasoline-powered family car anytime soon.
That said, CNG makes great sense for fleet vehicles, garbage trucks, buses and short-haul semi trucks. One of my co-workers was in Rochester yesterday, speaking at a CNG workshop sponsored by Kwik Trip.
Alternative fuels are already viable and in use right now in Minnesota. As I write this, trash and recycling is being picked up by CNG-powered trucks, the mail is being delivered in E85 fueled postal trucks, electric vehicles are charging up and fire trucks and ambulances are rolling on B20 biodiesel. Not to mention the school buses running on propane.
Alternative fuels and vehicles are all around us, if you know where to look.
Re New Stadium for the Saints.
1) Income projections for publicly funded stadiums = lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Given that reality,
2) Mike Veeck and The Saints are primarily about opportunities for fun for the community. Jim Pohlad and the Twins are primarily about opportunities for profits for the ownership.
Take your pick.
Re #4: Choosing to reduce (or eliminate) fuel consumption is frequently an emotional or ideological decision. Financial analysis is not always part of the decision making process.
The discussion above leaves out the cost of the natural gas needed to fuel the vehicle. There is a station in Blaine that sells natural gas fuel for vehicles at a current price of $1.99 per gallon equivalent.
More stadium math:
* $950,000,000 = Principle cost for a stadium
* $1,351,313,474 = Principle + interest @ 2.5% / 30 years
* $??? = cost of infra-structure improvements
* 65,000 = # attending each game
* 9 = games per year. OK, 1 home play-off game per season for the Vikes is overly optimistic.
* $100 per fan per game in stadium fees & taxes paid on tickets, parking, sales taxes at hotels, bars and restaurants, all paid directly to the principle. Yes, $100 is unrealistically high.
* 115 = years to pay off stadium P & I (not including infra-structure)
* 20 - 25 years = expected life of stadium
What a sweet deal for (some of) us!
// are primarily about opportunities for fun for the community.
Well, then the question becomes, "is that the role of a bonding bill?"
Is the reason public transportation to the SW couldn't be funded, or a new school for Rushford that they're not "fun" enough?
Though I'm not at all defending public money in stadiums, baseball attendance always declines in weekday games during September. Same thing happens in April.
Shockingly, the 8/28/2012 game versus Seattle was the first time Target Field attendance dropped below 30k. Last night's attendance was 28,139, the second lowest ever. The lowest ever was Monday's game at 27,526.
With a capacity of 39,504, the stadium was still 70% full on Monday. Compare this with the 9/16/2009 game at the Metrodome when 16,921 were there. That's only 36% capacity for a game in the midst of a riveting playoff race.
When you can still fill 70% of the stadium on a September weeknight with a horrible team on the field, the owners can't be frowning too much. Unfortunately, that also means they'll do very little to improve the team.
Oh, and as far as the Twins needing a new stadium to "stay competitive," I'm guessing the Pohlads meant financially competitive, not competitive on the field.
Look at the Oakland A's. They have pretty much the worst stadium in MLB, yet they have a decent shot at the AL Wild Card this year. Obviously the stadium makes no difference in the quality or competitiveness of the team.
The Oakland Coliseum holds the modern-day record for lowest-attended game. Only 653 people watched the A's beat Seattle 6-5 on 4/17/1979.
Re the Everything is Incredible video:
A personal tear jerker.
This old man, his ability to walk severely limited since childhood, dedicated his life to building a helicopter so that he could fly.
I once worked with a little boy with MS, which is a severely disabling disease of the electricity conducting nervous system.
That 6 yr old little guy was fascinated by all things electrical....
// meant financially competitive, not competitive on the field. Look at the Oakland A's. They have pretty much the worst stadium in MLB, yet they have a decent shot at the AL Wild Card this year. Obviously the stadium makes no difference in the quality or competitiveness of the team.
In baseball, which unlike other sports does not have a revenue-balanced economic structure, the link between financial resources and on-field success has been pretty clearly established; there's no need to debate it here.
However, left unsaid in the original declaration is that teams in baseball are chasing a moving target since other teams are also increasing revenue.
So, effectively, the Twins have, perhaps, caught up to where the competition was 6 or 7 years ago. The problem is it's not 6 or 7 years ago.
As for Oakland, well, you're kind of picking and choosing your data. If you're going to suggest that because they have a winning record this year, it proves that their stadium has no bearing on their won-lost season, you have to at least acknowledge the fact that they haven't had a winning season for five consecutive years might suggest that it does.
The fact that the money is coming out of an "economic development" pot is bad optics, given stadium economics, but I too don't object as much.
If I recall correctly, even though the Saints will be the primary user, their use is only going to account for a third or so. The rest will be high school, college and amateur leagues using it. A much more "public" facility than either the Twins or the Vikings.
//Bonus III: A distant war. A photographic assessment of Afghanistan. (NY Times' Lens blog)
Also regarding pictures from Afghanistan, I would highly, HIGHLY, recommend the book The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. The topic of this book, however, is the after-effects of the Soviet invasion.
I'm another person who was opposed to the use of public money being used to fund the Vikings stadium but is OK with public money being used to fund a Saints stadium. I think it is because the owner of the Vikings is a billionaire, the team is worth close to a billion dollars and they are profitable. I don't think the finances are the same for the Saints ownership or team. Also, they play in a dead part of St. Paul, but having a stadium in Lowertown will, without a doubt, bring people into downtown St. Paul where they will bring both money and vitality to the area. The Vikings were either going to stay downtown or move -- no new benefit for downtown Minneapolis. I see spending public money on the Saints as more like spending public money on an orchestra or a museum that may not directly pay off but will be an asset for the region/city/neighborhood.