Minor league baseball games are cute, folksy, and quaint. But at their essence, they’re just another place to socialize or eat peanuts and Cracker Jack.
What they are not—- important to note this week, as Southern Illinois salivates over the prospect of getting its own little baseball team—- is economic development in any way, shape, or form.
Governor Rod Blagojevich is giving $3 million state taxpayer dollars to his multi-millionaire Madison County trial lawyer supporter, John Simmons, as both present minor league baseball as some sort of economic panacea to the people of struggling Marion, rife with jobs and hope.
Yo, Marion, get ready to get disappointed.
To be sure, we at The Record are big fans of the game. But unlike pre-teen boys with tunnel vision and Scott Rolen posters above their beds, we understand that baseball—- particularly piddling minor league baseball, its teams stocked with transient no-name players and much mediocrity-- is nothing more than another summer distraction.
Next summer will bring no new jobs, no economic boost, and no bustling tourism scene to Marion thanks to minor league baseball.
Don’t take our word for it. A 1994 University of Illinois/University of Maryland study of the economic impact of publicly-funded stadiums found that that professional sports merely ‘realigned leisure spending’ in an area with no net gain.
Moreover, in reviewing 37 metropolitan areas, the study actually concluded that the presence of pro sports teams had a “statistically significant negative impact on the retail and services sectors of the local economies.” Cities with pro teams actually lost jobs, as competing entertainment options like bowling allies and movie theatres lost customers.
Of course, Simmons and Blagojevich are promising the people of Marion—- and we Illinois taxpayers—- a convenient “$4 million local economic impact” from the $3 million state grant. Sure.
Simmons’ squad, based in South Bend this year, is currently called the Silver Hawks. Built on so many promises, maybe he should change its name to the Silver Tongues?