The myth of stadium economics in one picture (5×8 – 9/13/12)

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?


1) BASEBALL ECONOMICS

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).

empty_target_field.jpg

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.

2) SCIENCE FICTION MEETS SCIENCE REALITY

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…

Everything is Incredible from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.

3) DEATH OF THE ASH

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.

4) FOUR BUCKS?

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?

5) TOO SOON?

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.

xmas_neiman.jpg

“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)

TODAY’S QUESTION

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.