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San Diego Padres' stadium report: $5 return for every $1 invested. Really?

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Mike Blake/Reuters/File

(Read caption) The first pitch is thrown at the San Diego Padres' $485 million Petco Park in March 2004 (to start a college game). A new report says the 44,000 seat stadium created $5 of value for every $1 invested publicly, but some question the estimate as being too rosy.

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Interesting story in the Watchdog column of the San Diego Union Tribune about a consultant, Conventions Sports & Leisure International, that has a “record of sunny forecasts” on stadium impacts. CSL has been quite active in the stadium impact business, it seems.

Last week, a CSL report stated that each $1 of public investment in Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres) was “met by more than $5 in private investment.” Is that cause for celebration? Maybe. The story provides links to the report (so you be the judge) along with other reports issued by CSL. Kudos to Watchdog for posting those, along with the wry comment that CSL “could be warming up to examine a proposed Chargers relocation. If the firm’s previous analyses are any guide, expect promising forecasts for stadium boosters.”

A friend of mine lives in San Diego, loves baseball, and told me about these “5 to 1″ claims several years ago. He believes Petco Park did make a difference to the re-development of San Diego’s Gaslamp District, primarily by providing a physical barrier between the district and the unsightly — by today’s standards — railyards. (See the picture on p. 2 of the CSL report). But he’s a skeptic of the 5-1 claim. The report (p. 69) lists $1.79 billion in increased property value due to the ballpark. Wow, that’s a big number! One interpretation of this figure is that there is a large negative externality associated with the San Diego railyards.

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