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Outside the Lines: Fields of Green

Here's the transcript from Show 47 of Outside The Lines- Fields of Green.

Host -Bob Ley, ESPN.
Story reported by -Scott Walker, ESPN.
Guests -Mark Jackson, VP of Sports Marketing, Central Fla. Dev. Council; John Zipp, Chair, Department of Sociology, University of Akron; Mark Coronado, Director of Parks and Recreation, Surprise, Ariz.
Coordinating producer -Jonathan Ebinger, ESPN.

Bob Ley, host - Across Florida, spring training is back, and with it, a bidding war not only for civic pride, but economic prosperity.

Al Zucaro Jr., West Palm Beach City Commissioner President - Baseball as an industry for spring training, each team that comes has an economic impact somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million to $25 million.

Ley - Cities promise newer stadiums and higher revenues to lure a major league team of their own.

Doug Anderson, St. Lucie County Administrator - I would say that it is a very spirited competition within the state of Florida. You don't want to think of it as cut throat. But I think in some cases it is cut throat.

Ley - Today on Outside The Lines, the spring training battle on the fields of green.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Joining us from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley - They are the four sweetest words in the English language. Pitchers and catchers report. To a fan, the words mean that winter's tyranny is on the ropes and spring training is at hand, bringing with it the renewal of all that is right in the world.

But it's not so simple anymore. While the Tigers are still in Lakeland and the Dodgers are staying in Vero Beach, much of the comforting familiarity of spring training datelines is gone.

Six major league clubs have relocated within Florida. One has arrived from Arizona. Another has left for Arizona. And two more are about to do so, and all of that within the last seven springs.

You can't pin this one on the players, at least not directly. They do not even draw a paycheck during spring training.

What we are seeing is civic boosterism at its most fervent and some would say expensive. And it has come full circle.

The New York Mets were among the first of the new wave of spring training relocations 13 years ago when they left St. Petersburg for a much better deal on the east coast of Florida. Now they may very well be moving again.

It is, Scott Walker tells us, a story that illustrates the balance between the benefits for six weeks of being a major league town and the cost.

Scott Walker, ESPN correspondent - Port St. Lucie, Florida, lacked the national identity before becoming the spring training home of the New York Mets. Now it is in danger of disappearing from the Grapefruit League map.

Jeff Powers, "The Sports Guy," WPSL 1590 - This is a New York community. We are the New York Mets in spring training. And that's the way we're going to keep it.

Walker - The possible departure of the Mets when their lease expires after the 2002 spring season has the populace in this normally placid community scrambling.

Anderson - The county is putting up billboards in St. Lucie County advertising spring training. Banners are going up on light poles welcoming the Mets back.

Walker - It sounds like an election.

Anderson - It's competition. It's a campaign.

Walker - The campaign is to save civic pride, as well as the Mets. Port St. Lucie must show the Mets or any other team that baseball can make money in the area.

The Mets have no problem with what has become a first-rate training facility. The club's mission is to protect their largest spring revenue stream, attendance.

Dave Howard, Mets Senior Vice President for Business and Legal Affairs - We have seen some growth in attendance in the last couple of years. But we're still bottom of the pack in all of Major League Baseball. And that makes no sense to us being one of the best teams.

Walker - Grapefruit League figures showed the Mets' attendance ranks twelfth out of 20 Florida-based teams last year. While Port St. Lucie mounts a drive for ticket sales, it must also mount a defense against a proposal for the Mets to move to nearby West Palm Beach. That city sees a downtown stadium with the Orioles and Mets as tenants as the next step in its renewal campaign.

Zucaro - Baseball is a crowd generator and an economic driver. The statistics clearly show that they're -- in my opinion clearly show that baseball as an industry for spring training, each team that comes has an economic impact somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $25 million, depending upon how you interpret the numbers.

David Cardwell, Executive Director, Grapefruit League Association - It won't put that much money back into a city or county's accounts because most of the money that's generated out of spring training is sales tax. That money goes to the state.

Walker - The Florida Sports Foundation says the economic impact of spring training totals $450 million throughout the state. But some economists believe those economic impact reports are generally inaccurate and simply reflect tourism income Florida would otherwise attract.

Phil Porter, Economics professor, Univ. of South Florida - Spring training has a miniscule or immeasurable diminutive impact on the local communities. The people are coming to Florida for the good weather, for the mix of amenities, for the beaches. They go to Orlando to go surfing, to go fishing, and to go to a spring training game.

Cardwell - They may come to Florida anyway. But would someone come to Winter Haven, Florida, if they didn't know the Indians were here? So when you get a community like Winter Haven, I think they see a real impact from the people from Ohio and all the Cleveland fans that come here during the month of March.

Walker - Baseball did not generate enough money for Plant City, which estimates that by the end of Cincinnati's 10-year stay in 1997 the city was losing nearly $400,000 a year, almost one percent of its annual budget.

West Palm Beach officials spent nearly $1 million a year from city funds on maintenance when they last had baseball. The Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos left there in 1997.

Such cities may have a sense of fiscal prudence, but not the exposure that comes with hosting spring training.

Zucaro - I would be less than honest to tell you that it is not a wonderful byproduct to be able to get national exposure and international exposure by having baseball here, by having spring training games broadcasted, and on the bottom of ESPN or whatever channel is doing it, it says, "Brought to you from West Palm Beach, Florida."

Porter - But the kind of expenditures that you're making to get your name out there and the kind of name recognition that's coming from these huge expenditures is disproportionate to what you could get from controlling your advertising dollar.

Walker - Controlling dollars is increasingly important for teams as well. Baseball sources estimate only about one in four franchises turns a profit in the spring. But that does not stop teams from constantly trying to improve their bottom lines and their stadium deals.

Jerry Crabb, Cleveland Indians manager of Florida operations - I think you do keep a close eye on it, we do, on what other cities are doing and some of the lease agreements that they have. We want to maximize the potential revenue that we can generate.

Walker - Cleveland is certainly looking at what happens to the Mets because St. Lucie officials have already made contact with the Indians about replacing the Mets in 2004 should New York go to West Palm Beach. The Mets plan on announcing their intentions in the fall to give West Palm Beach time to settle the stadium situation.

Baseball may be a soothing diversion. But its backroom battles typify the intense competition for spring training.

Anderson - This is our one opportunity, and we have to go for it. And we are going for it. We're not taking it laying down. And if other communities are out there trying to attract our team, the New York Mets -- we consider them our team -- they have a fight on their hands.

Zucaro - I assume that the Mets management have used this opportunity to perhaps find a better negotiating posture with St. Lucie County.

Walker - The team is going to win no matter what.

Porter - The team is going to get the lion's share of any deal. That's for sure.

Walker - Whether the Mets continue to make this Port St. Lucie facility home will depend much less on the county's enormous manpower efforts and much more on their ability to create larger revenue streams for the team. It illustrates the classic equation facing community throughout the state. For those who see value in spring training, how far are they willing to go to pay for the product?

In Port St. Lucie, I'm Scott Walker for Outside The Lines.

Ley - And when we continue, I'll speak with a Florida sports executive who knows what it's like to recruit and to lose major league teams, a professor who believes the economic impact of spring training is vastly overstated, and an Arizona official whose small town just lured two teams west from Florida.

Ley - Our topic, the battle for spring training's fields of green. And joining us this morning, Mark Jackson, a sports marketing executive in Polk County, Florida, which has welcomed the Cleveland Indians and is about to lose the Kansas City Royals. He joins us from Winter Haven.

John Zipp is the chairman of the Department of Sociology at the University of Akron. And he joins us from Akron.

And Mark Coronado is the director of parks and recreation in Surprise, Arizona. And he is in Phoenix.

Mark Jackson, let me begin with you. The good people of Port St. Lucie are using flyers, pizza coupons, and billboards to battle West Palm Beach, who is looking at a $35 million stadium complex if they can get it on the ballot. Is Port St. Lucie essentially throwing rocks at a tank?

Mark Jackson, Vice President of Sports Marketing, Central Florida Development Council - Well, Port St. Lucie certainly has a world class facility. The economy is going to benefit immensely every year the Mets come back. It would certainly be a shame to see them go.

Ley - But they're doing it at the retail level it seems, while West Palm Beach is looking at a $35 million complex. Looks like we're talking about apples and very large oranges here.

Jackson - Well, each community needs to decide what's best for itself and of course rank those priorities. At the grassroots level, ultimately that's where the benefit of spring training comes in.

The local businesses, the citizens, the economics, and the quality of life really benefit the community. But whatever those priorities are, each community has to rank them.

Ley - Well, Mark Coronado, the priority is certainly in the greater Phoenix and Surprise area, the opposite certainly of pizza coupons would be your nearly $2 billion bond issue which put Surprise, Arizona on the map. You folks must represent the absolute extreme of luring teams in with the size of that issue.

Of course, it involved the Phoenix stadium as well for the Cardinals. But spring training was a large part of it.

Mark Coronado, Director of Parks and Recreation, Surprise, Arizona - Absolutely. Actually, some political analysts would tell you that the spring training element at the youth sports facility element carried the Proposition 302 over the top.

We in Surprise look at spring training and the opportunity that it brings to our community obviously as a catalyst for economic development. But we prioritize the dollars that we're spending for this project and committing to our community. It will bring tremendous wellness opportunity value to our citizens.

We're looking at our development as a park complex that will be used by the citizens year-round. We will partner with the school district and with ancillary partners throughout our community.

So it's much more than just an economic catalyst. It's actually a wellness opportunity that a lot of cities our size do not have the opportunity or benefit to bring forth to their citizens.

Ley - All right, John Zipp, wellness opportunity value. I've not heard that phrase before. Have you?

John Zipp, Sociology professor and Sociology Department Chair, Univ. of Akron - No, in fact, I'm going to agree with you. I haven't heard that one.

Ley - So is that -- as more and more towns talk about things aside from the dollar value, I know you're a critic of many of these economic studies that say that there is a -- the big number in Florida, $25 million per team. And you take issue with that?

Zipp - I take a lot of issue with that. Let me mention a couple of things about it. First, the $25 million per team.

If we can believe that number -- and I'll give you a reason in a moment why we shouldn't -- that represents in a county like Polk County where the Indians are less than two-tenths of one percent of the taxable sales in that county for the year. That's less than two-tenths of one percent. So it's not really much of an economic impact.

The number is also inflated. Most of these economic impact studies do not do a few things. They don't distinguish new spending that's brought in from the outside versus spending by people who already live there. And so, if people are not going to the baseball game, they might be going to a movie or dinner or theater and so forth.

The second thing is that they use spending, total spending, the base for which to multiply things by to get this $25 million. Well, total spending is the wrong number to use because most of the money that's spent immediately leaves the area, especially a small county like Polk County, but even a big state like Florida.

You spend money on a hotel. You spend money on a chain restaurant. You spend money on food. Most of that money goes immediately out of the state.

Ley - So, Mark Jackson, let me just if I could...

Zipp - Sure.

Ley - ... Mark, the $25 million figure, is that voodoo economics?

Jackson - Well, it certainly isn't. The study that John was talking about was commissioned by the Florida Sports Foundation. The economic impact study that ultimately said that 50 percent of the people that are watching these games that they're measuring are coming from out of state. They stay approximately 10-and-a-half days a piece.

The impact from that, from the non-Florida residents, is certainly significant. The hoteliers here will tell you that. All you have to do is walk down the streets and see the license plates coming in.

Ley - Wouldn't these people be in Florida already though because it's cold in the north and the east?

Jackson - Well, that's what's interesting about this study. They made a very clear distinction between the people that they were measuring coming for the primary purpose of attending a spring training game.

They stayed 10-and-a-half days a piece. Now these people, the primary motivation was coming. The people on the other side of the equation, the non-Florida residents as they were qualified and categorized, were here for reasons other than spring training.

It may be to go to Cypress Gardens or go to Disney. But they're still here as a secondary motivation to attend spring training games and to participate in vacation central right here in Polk County.

Zipp - Let me jump in a little bit on that, Bob, because I've read that study done by the Florida Sports Foundation. And it's true, they did try to distinguish between non-Florida residents and Florida residents.

But there's a couple of other issues that need to be considered. First, Lee County did a study a few years ago which found that only about five percent of its tourists during the months that spring training occurs were there for spring training.

Broward County did a similar one and found anywhere between seven and 17 percent of hotel revenue came from people there just to see spring training. So it's really a small number.

The second number is the sales figures. Most of the money that those fans spent immediately leaves the area.

I can give you an analogy. If Bristol, Connecticut, has a Ford dealership and it has $10 million in sales, that money does not stay in Bristol, Connecticut. $9 million-plus immediately goes to Detroit and leaves the area.

So the only number you can really look at is the additions to local income. And that's what...

Ley - Mark, I'll give you a chance to respond in just a second. We'll take a break here in Bristol, Connecticut, where we have a number of dealerships. We'll continue with Mark Jackson and John Zipp and Mark Coronado considering the fields of green in spring training Outside The Lines.

Ley - We continue on the competition for spring training franchises with Mark Jackson, John Zipp, and Mark Coronado.

Mark Jackson, you wanted to respond to John's comment that the money leaves the area after it's spent in spring training.

Jackson - Well, the empirical evidence just points to the opposite of that. Actually, there's three reasons that spring training is a valuable commodity for our community here.

Number one, the economic side of it. You can argue back and forth all you want about the credibility. But study after study after study have shown that these economic impact figures are real. Empirically, they're real.

The second benefit, of course, that we're receiving is the added visibility. You take a look at Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example. If it wasn't for the Packers, you know, Green Bay would be just another city in Wisconsin.

And the third reason is that it gives us tremendous credibility in the world of sports that spawns sports clusters. Now, Michael Porta, the Harvard economist, has suggested that baseball -- or excuse me, industries in and of themselves spawn and create other industries.

And we have found that to be true here in that we attract 30 or 40 other events to this particular facility, the Cleveland Indians' facility, Chain of Lakes right here in Winter Haven.

Our other two facilities, as Mark will find out, will attract U-AAAs, AAU, and other amateur events, instructional leagues, and so on. So the economic impact goes way beyond what we see in the six weeks of spring training.

Coronado - I would agree with that. And I think that's what needs to be mentioned here, there's a different scenario in the Cactus League. In 1998, a similar study was done here for the Cactus League.

And actually, 94 percent of all those who attended a game came specifically to watch a Cactus League baseball game. It should be noted that, though we don't have the beachfronts that the Florida landscape offers, we do have our resorts and our golf courses.

But over 90 percent were coming to watch the spring training. And over 65 percent were coming specifically to watch a baseball game.

You know, our neighbors to the east, Peoria, has shown what an economic catalyst and economic train spring training can bring to a community. And though it's here for 30 to 45 days, these restaurants, these hotels, all these amenities that sprung up around the Peoria Sports Complex on 83rd Avenue and Bell are there for the residents of the community and for a big business boom all year round.

So I think the scenario in Arizona is a lot different than Florida. And I think that's why you're seeing small-town cities take an opportunity to bring and lure the Rangers and the Royals in our case to our community.

I think it's a big boom economically from a recreational wellness perspective. And it does bring the credibility of a new dynamic city trying to grow literally from the ground up.

Zipp - Bob, I don't want to rain on the spring training parade. I'm certainly a very big sports fan myself. I've been to hundreds of games all across this country and Canada. I'm a former Division One college basketball player. I'm a big sports fan.

However, when Mark Jackson talked about the studies that keep showing an economic impact, I will agree with him. Virtually every study done by a sports foundation associated with a city, state, or municipality, or done by a team shows a major economic development impact.

However, virtually every study done by someone not affiliated with the team, independent scholars who are doing this as part of their research agenda, virtually all of whom show very little if any economic impact.

Now people can be the judge of which evidence is more credible. I, myself, did a study of spring training in 1995. As people may recall, that's when we had the replacement players' spring training.

And my hypothesis was that since spring training attendance was down in Florida about 60 percent that year, if spring training is really a major economic boom to the state, then we should see a major economic loss in March of that year.

Ley - Was there?

Zipp - Well, absolutely not. It was virtually indistinguishable from counties that had teams versus counties that didn't have teams. And that's partly because spring training, the revenue associated with this is relatively small as a percentage of what the county does otherwise.

It's clear that some restaurants will do worse if spring training is not there.

Ley - Let's talk about the competition, Mark Jackson. We heard it described earlier as cut throat. Is it cut throat among and between teams in Florida and counties and towns?

Jackson - Well, we really didn't see the loss of the Royals as cut throat. It was really a business situation. The Royals lost their permanent location, Baseball City.

There is a significant amount of competition out there. There's no doubt about it.

But it's like any other business deal. It's like any other business negotiation.

You can call it cut throat. You can put whatever label you want on it. But it's simply good-hearted competition just like you see out there on the baseball fields. And I really don't see it as cut throat.

Ley - You're standing right in front of Chain of Lakes Park, though, where the Indians play. The Indians have already been contacted by Port St. Lucie because if the Mets leave, St. Lucie needs a new team. And so it goes, and so it goes.

Jackson - Well, it's all about relationships. And it goes way beyond economics.

The Indians were here in the first place simply because they had a problem with their stadium in Homestead due to Hurricane Andrew. But they found the relationship with the city of Winter Haven and Polk County in general as to be a very good one, a very prosperous one.

Ley - What do you need to do to keep them? We're short on time. In 10 seconds, what can you do to make sure they don't go to Port St. Lucie?

Jackson - Well, create an environment where they can train their athletes to be the next World Series champions. That's what we can do.

Ley - And that comes down to dollars. It comes down to dollars?

Jackson - Partially it does. But it also boils down to creating the infrastructure that allows their players to be comfortable here and allows them to train to be the best that they can possibly be. And we think we can do that better than anybody else.

Ley - Gentlemen all, thank you very much. Thanks to Mark Jackson and to John Zipp and to Mark Coronado as we have been discussing the fields of green.

And next, your reactions to last week's interview with NBA Commissioner David Stern. We'll be right back.

Ley - Our look at the NBA last week, including my conversation with David Stern, generated a significant volume of e-mail comments to our inbox, a viewer in Cincinnati writing - "All the people who are complaining are getting older and conservative. And they are threatened by change.

"The game has not gone down. And the league is not in jeopardy of becoming obsolete. There is probably more talent in the league than ever. Yesterday's Afros are today's tattoos and braided cornrows. I think Karl Malone and Nate McMillan are a little bit jealous that their skills have diminished and they are on the other end of the poster shots."

From Minneapolis, quote, "The attitude and arrogance displayed by NBA Commissioner Stern last weekend is a perfect example of why I quit watching the NBA. He forgets that if it were not for the media he would have no NBA. In addition, his taking shots at Nate McMillan, one of the hardest working and classiest guys to ever play the game in any profession, was completely out of line and uncalled for.

"I'm reminded of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned," end quote.

Those opinions registered online at From the ESPN front page, type the keyword otlweekly. That's the easiest way to access our complete library of streaming video and program transcripts, if you happen to miss a Sunday morning program, shame on you.

We always look forward to your e-mail comments, suggestions, and criticisms. And our address -

Ley - And a couple of viewing notes. ESPN2 college basketball action today at noon Eastern, 9 a.m. Pacific time, the Vikings and the Titans, Cleveland State taking on Detroit.

And golf action, final round at 3 p.m. Eastern on ABC Sports of the Bob Hope, the Chrysler Classic.

And also, make a note. If you have joined us along the way, we will be re-airing at 4 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific today over on ESPN2. Ahead tonight at 8 Eastern, it's the Detroit Red Wings visiting the Dallas Stars, National Hockey Night on ESPN.

Now we've got all of last night's college basketball and also the story of Rick Ankiel's comeback as he goes one on one with Peter Gammons, the interesting story of the left-hander for the Cardinals and his attempt to come back.

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