DiBiasio: We are pretty fortunate that our fans are of the type that it turns into almost a college atmosphere here. They wear the Indians merchandise, they're very proud of their franchise and what we've been able to accomplish.And more importantly, from the team's perspective, they buy tickets. All the tickets. The Indians have sold out their last 357 home games - a major league record. The team is not only attracting more fans, but those fans are spending more money on concessions and luxury seating, pushing the team's revenues far higher than comparable small-market teams such as the Minnesota Twins. The extra dollars have helped the club win its division championship four years running, and the Indians are almost certain to repeat this year.
Bawa: Not good. Excellent. Forty-five thousand every home game, guaranteed. How many businesses can count on that kind of command of people?Not all merchants are as enthusiastic as Bawa. Mark Steuve owns the Old Erie Street Bookstore, one block from Jacobs Field. He says the crush of fans can crowd out his regular customers. Moreover, he questions the priorities of the stadium backers. Jacobs Field and Gund Arena - home of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team - were built together at a cost of $425 million. Of that, nearly $300 million came from public sources, including a county-wide "sin tax" on alcohol and tobacco. The tax was approved by Cuyahoga county voters in a 1990 referendum. But Steuve says the public investment has done nothing for Cleveland's poorer residents.
Steuve: The city residents don't often fill the ballpark. Most people are at a poverty level and are not at a position where they can afford to purchase these amenities, whether it's the tickets or the trimmings.
Chema: Clearly there were more pressing social needs in Cleveland - then and now.Tom Chema is the former executive director of the Gateway Economic Development Corporation, the public-private partnership that oversaw the construction of Jacobs Field and Gund Arena. Chema says he's heard the argument that sports facilities are being built at the expense of other social programs. He says that criticism is unfair. The Gateway project doesn't prevent Cleveland residents from raising taxes yet again to fund other public investments. But he says the voters simply aren't motivated to do so.
Chema: Reforming our public school system in Cleveland is a dire need. You couldn't get voters in Cleveland to vote for that.And he defends Gateway by pointing to what he calls the economic spin-off.
Rosentraub: Take the economic development off the table because it's a joke. Everybody knows it. So let's just not fool ourselves and we won't embarrass ourselves because we have empirical data.Mark Rosentraub is a sports economist at Indiana University. He's studied Cleveland's Gateway development and concludes the $300 million public investment generated roughly 2000 new jobs - costing the taxpayers nearly a quarter million dollars per job created.
Rosentraub: So there's no question if you throw an immense amount of money, that some jobs will be moved. But at what price? $231,000 per job? That is professional mismanagement as far as I'm concerned.Chema says focusing exclusively on job creation overlooks the housing development and other infrastructure improvements. He also says there are numerous intangibles that can't be quantified: safer streets or civic pride, for example. But on one point, most academic economists agree with Rosentraub. They argue that sports facilities don't create new economic activity. Rather, they siphon leisure dollars from the surrounding metropolitan region.
Novak: We've probably seen about a $1,000 dropoff in business because people eat downtown. But we do get a good influx before and sometimes after with people going home. But it still affects business.Mark Novak is the general manager for BD's Mongolian Barbeque in the eastern suburb of Cleveland Heights. He estimates a home game can cut business at his restaurant alone by ten percent. Still, Novak is a self-confessed sports enthusiast. He says he supports the stadium despite the drain on customers.
Jarrard: Back in the late '60s, early '70s, up until the early '80s, Cleveland was the laughing stock of the nation. Well, we don't hear the joke anymore do we?The St. Paul delegation leaving later this week will have a chance to test Jarrard's assertion. But already, there's evidence other Clevelanders are of a like mind. In 1990, the Jacobs Field-Gund Arena vote passed by the thinnest of margins - 52 to 48 percent. In 1995, the sin tax again appeared on the ballot. The question the second time around was whether to extend the tax to fund a stadium for a new Cleveland Browns football franchise. That measure passed overwhelmingly: 72 to 28 percent.