By Maria Saporta and Amy Wenk
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on August 2, 2013
The Atlanta Braves have an annual economic impact of more than $100 million — paying $8.6 million in state and local taxes each year.
That’s according to a new study that measures the team’s contribution to the Georgia economy. The findings are being released just as the Braves begin efforts to renegotiate their lease of Turner Field. The current lease expires Dec. 31, 2016.
“We wanted to show what we do to drive the economy in our region,” said Mike Plant, executive vice president of business operations for the Braves.
Among some of the other findings of the economic impact study were:
The Braves generate the employment of 1,648 full-time (or full-time equivalent) jobs in the local economy.
Visiting Braves fans stay 110,000 nights each year in local hotels and motels (averaging about 2.5 nights per out-of-town fan).
And, the Braves spend $10.5 million on Atlanta-based companies.
The economic impact study was conducted by Bruce Seaman, an economist with Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and from research derived by Brailsford & Dunlavey Inc. program management firm.
Plant said the Braves benefit from having a fan base that extends well beyond Georgia’s borders. Given the scarcity of professional baseball teams in the Southeast, the Atlanta team has been able to declare that the whole region is “Braves Country.” The Braves’ popularity beyond Atlanta can be traced back to when former owner Ted Turner first put the games on his SuperStation TBS and called it “America’s team.”
Today that has translated to 32.3 percent of all seats sold per game being sold to fans who are from outside the state — 7.4 percent coming from Alabama; 5.6 percent from Tennessee; 4.4 percent from South Carolina; 4 percent from North Carolina and 3.1 percent from Florida.
In all, about 300,000 out-of-state visitors attend Braves’ games each year, contributing about $100 million to the team’s revenues. Also, visiting baseball teams spend about $2 million in Georgia when they play the Braves each year.
Seaman, responding to questions in an email, said the Braves “were relatively unique” for having a genuine regional fan base that generated significant local economic benefits in what he called “baseball-related tourism for entire weekends.” Hotels have developed marketing packages to take advantage of the Braves as a destination draw, offering tickets and room nights for a multi-game series.
“The Braves have a significant impact on Atlanta’s hospitality industry during a period when convention traffic slows,” William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement to Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Visitors come to Atlanta every summer to attend a Braves game and take in the city’s attractions and restaurants.”
Seaman also said that the Braves, and its farm teams, also have a relatively high percentage of players who live in the region year-round. “This is important since a major reason why professional teams can have lower regional impacts is the degree to which local fan dollars are paid to non-locally based players, at least for the non-season part of the year,” Seaman said.
Because the Braves play 81 regular season home games each year, it is expected that the sport would have a greater economic impact than some of the other professional sports team that do not play as many games.
In a brochure that the Braves will soon release, Seaman is quoted as saying: “The Braves more than double the economic impact of Georgia’s other major sports franchises combined.”
Seaman said that among Atlanta’s professional sports teams, the Braves do have a larger spending impact because of its out-of-town fan base. Even with the popularity of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks, both tend to draw primarily from a “localized fan base” when compared with the Braves.
Plant said the timing of the economic impact study, which has been in the works for a year and a half, was to help the community understand the importance of the Braves on the local economy. That understanding will be helpful as the Braves enter into negotiations for another 20-year lease to play in Turner Field.
“The Olympic Games and the Atlanta Braves have built and maintained almost100 percent of Turner Field,” Plant said. “This is a great stadium, but it’s 16 years old. It is the fourth-oldest baseball stadium in the National League.”
Plant said the Braves and its partners already have invested about $110 million in Turner Field over the past 20 years, and he knows there’s a long list of upgrades that the facility will need to keep it in first-class shape.
The Braves anticipate that Turner Field will need more than $100 million (if not double that) in maintenance and improvements over the next 20 years. Seaman said he hopes the economic impact study will provide a “fuller picture” of the role that the Braves play in the local economy and will help lead to rational public policy making.
While the city and the Braves could help generate more development around the stadium, Seaman said that Turner Field as it stands today already does generate economic activity that’s important to the city and the downtown area.
“Granted, there is always an issue of how much of that activity is within the stadium rather than outside,” Seaman said. “But I have no doubt that the city would be harmed in multiple ways if the Braves were ever to move outside the city to another metro-based location.”
The Atlanta Braves’ current annual economic impact
State and local taxes paid by the Braves–$8.6 million
Full-time jobs generated by the Braves–1,648
Hotel night stays with an average of 2.5 nights by visiting Braves fans–110,000
Spent by the Braves with Atlanta-based companies–$10.5 million
Projected 20-year economic impact of the Atlanta Braves
Economic impact for the state of Georgia – $1.68 billion
Direct fiscal impact and tax revenues for the state of Georgia – $105 million
Direct fiscal impact and tax revenues for the city of Atlanta – $60.8 million
Approximate Braves’ annual revenue from visiting fans – $100 million
Annual number of out-of-state attendees at Braves games – 300,000
Amount contributed by visiting teams to Georgia – $2 million