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|Wednesday, August 24, 2011|
BY PATRICK EMERSON
The New York Times had a fascinating article on a tale of two stadiums in New Jersey over the weekend. One, a $34 million dollar stadium built for minor league baseball 13 years ago is a complete flop. No one goes to the games. The other, the new Red Bulls Arena is a big success (though, truth be told, the Red Bulls should not have to work had to sell it out, which they still do).
This has a lot of resonance in Portland, given its own struggle with the baseball vs. soccer question. The Newark experience suggests Portland got it right:
Given the large soccer constituency in the city’s Portuguese and Latino strongholds, did Newark get its demographics crossed and build the wrong field of commercial dreams? Did the city bet on the wrong sport?The demographics are entirely different here than in Newark, of course, but one only had to attend a typical Portland Beavers game and see the emptiness of a 20,000 seat stadium with less than 2,000 other spectators to understand what a perfect fit MLS has been.
Ironically, I was clued into this interesting article by Jack Bog who was using it as evidence to criticize Milwaukie for proposing to develop a minor league baseball stadium. Ironic because he is a vitriolic critic of, well, just about everything, but especially about the re-purposing of Civic Stadium for MLS. Surely he sees the irony: The Timbers are a runaway success, filling the stadium and breathing new life into what was a dying city asset? I doubt it, he seems to be almost entirely irony free...
Patrick Emerson is an associate professor of economics at Oregon State University and author of the Oregon Economics Blog.
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