- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, hoping to improve its standing with both Richmond legislators and Major League Baseball's new relocation committee, yesterday released an economic impact study estimating the 30-year fiscal effects of baseball in the commonwealth at more than $11.5billion.
The study, conducted by George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller, updated a 2000 report from Fuller and estimated a Virginia-based major league team would produce 3,938 Virginia-based, full-time jobs and $21.8million in annual tax revenue for Virginia from team operations. Similar to Fuller's study three years ago, the new report concluded a Virginia team would generate more than enough economic activity to pay off public-sector bonds on a new stadium.
Fuller also estimated $71.5million in annual spending in the District by Virginians should the city win out and gain a team instead of Northern Virginia, all of that representing lost tax income for the commonwealth.
"The increased economic and fiscal benefit estimates resulting from this updated analysis once again establish the positive value of a Major League Baseball team in Northern Virginia to the Commonwealth's economy and to state and local treasuries," Fuller wrote in the report.
Fuller made his conclusions after applying inflation and updated market data to his 2000 report. That study estimated the total economic impact from a Virginia MLB team at $8.6billion and the annual tax revenue for Virginia from team operations at $16.2million.
Last summer, William Collins, leader of a Virginia-based bid group for baseball, said the time for more baseball-related market studies had passed because many reports on the topic already existed and had been sent to MLB offices. But as the race to relocate the Montreal Expos intensified in recent weeks, it became clear that both MLB and the Virginia General Assembly needed much more complete and current data.
"Like anything else, everybody needs to have the most current information possible," said Gabe Paul, authority executive director. "This is showtime now. We're going to be making real decisions, and we need to have all the best information available."
MLB's committee to relocate the long-struggling Expos is scheduling meetings with several jurisdictions, including the District, Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore. Those meetings, which will be held Tuesday and Wednesday next week in New York, were described by baseball sources as "pre-bid conferences" in which baseball's full requirements for the Expos in a new market will be identified. Those requirements will include some outline of a stadium financing plan, which baseball advocates in both the District and Northern Virginia are working quickly to develop.
A second set of meetings will be held with the relocation committee in late February or March. At this point, MLB is meeting only with government officials and not prospective owners. Local delegations traveling to New York for the meetings will be capped at six people for each group.
A final decision on the Expos' permanent new home could be determined by midsummer, with play in the new city to begin in 2004. MLB commissioner Bud Selig, however, is no longer guaranteeing the Expos will be moved in time for the 2004 season. The team is owned and operated by MLB.
Paul met with Northern Virginia's delegation to Richmond yesterday, updating the legislators on the commonwealth's long pursuit of baseball. No baseball-related legislation will be sought unless and until MLB makes some type of decision awarding a team to Virginia. But should that happen, Paul remained confident state help toward the ballpark project can and will be found, even as Virginia battles a budget deficit exceeding $1billion.
"When we go to the General Assembly, we want to actually go with something," Paul said. "We want them to be voting on something real, not simply a hypothetical situation."
Even though the Fuller study projected plenty of economic activity deriving from a Virginia-based team, the authority and General Assembly still must draw a direct line between that money and revenue streams that will both pay off public-sector stadium bonds and not reduce funding for any other existing program.
"We're delighted with this report," said Paul Schiffman, an investor in Collins' group. "We think this makes a very clear case that this can absolutely work and not negatively impact on the general fund."


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