Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball is successful — but…
• The baseball stadium is the only major component remaining from the Community Maritime Park’s original plan. It was expanded from the original design.
• In actuality, the CMP became a “waterfront baseball complex”. The ballpark dominates the entire 30 acres. It over-shadows and encroaches upon the public area and the amphitheater.
• Success of the baseball complex depends on commercial real estate development – on and off the park property. Thus far, there is one commercial building under construction at the complex and a second in the planning stage. No other downtown building is directly attributable to baseball complex. More development is unlikely without a parking garage (at a cost of $5 to $8 million).
• Total cost of the waterfront baseball complex was $64 million. The biggest source of funds was $45.6 million borrowed by the City plus another $2.1 million from local sales taxes. The stadium cost at least $40 million. This includes direct and indirect costs.
• Minor league stadiums do not create new economic activity. Money spent at the stadium largely represents lost sales at other local food and entertainment businesses. Municipal stadiums have proven to be lousy investments for taxpayers
• The City will pay out about $85 million to retire the bonds sold to build the project. In addition, the City will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to operate the complex — for at least the next few years and maybe indefinitely. The City pays for stadium utilities and hurricane insurance.
• Stadiums require constant repair and maintenance. Team owners demand major renovations every five or ten years.
• The City will be “at the mercy” of the baseball team owners when the stadium lease comes up for renewal. It will take the City 30 years to pay off the bonds, but the baseball team has leased it for only the first ten years. Team owners have the sole option of renewal. The owners can threaten to move their team if the City does not meet their demands.
• In addition to the $85 million baseball complex bonds, other major City obligations are: 1) an estimated $135 million in pensions and other post-retirement benefits; and 2) $19.5 million owed to ECUA for demolition and clean-up of the old sewer plant.
• Pensacola sacrificed future downtown economic development in order to build a waterfront baseball complex. Funding for downtown projects will be limited for years to come. Major improvements are “on hold”.
“If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest in a new ballpark.” ~ Allen Sanderson, University of Chicago economist.
— researched & written by C. C. Elebash, November 2013