The return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers has created a great deal of excitement in Ohio. Beyond the various obvious fact that the Cavs stand to improve considerably and likely contend for titles for at least the next couple seasons, there’s a sense that LeBron’s homecoming could generate millions of dollars in revenue for Cleveland.
The return of the star forward to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers will have a $500 million a year impact on the local economy, with a boost from additional ticket sales and other spending, County Executive Ed FitzGerald said today. The 2016 Republican National Convention in the city will bring an additional one-time windfall of $200 million, he said.
“It generates real money for the local economy,” FitzGerald, a Democrat running for governor this year, said in an interview after a press conference in Cleveland. […]
Based on calculations by the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office, James’s return will increase the benefit from Cavs games alone to about $268 million. Average attendance increased from about 12,000 before James joined the team to about 20,500 during his final season, the county said. Although attendance has slipped, officials expect sold out games next season with James on the court.
Other spending increases will come at restaurants, convention business and hotels, FitzGerald said. Anticipated benefits include a $34 million increase in annual spending by fans at games to $170 million a year plus 500 additional jobs supported by the Cavaliers, the county said.
Essentially, the return of LeBron helps Cleveland because it makes it easier to cover the initial cost of Quicken Loans Arena, which first opened its doors 20 years ago. The economic benefits of new sports stadiums are almost always oversold and in many cases prove to be financial debacles. While that doesn’t meant they’re always bad ideas — sports teams can bring widespread social benefits outside of their economic impact — it does suggest that city officials feel a need to justify initial payments whenever possible.
To be clear, none of these points guarantee that FitzGerald’s estimates will be incorrect — it’s just wise not to treat them as fact. Cleveland has many reasons to feel great pride over LeBron’s latest decision. It’s just that feeling joy on and around the court doesn’t necessarily translate to economic benefits for all. To adjust a common cliche, a city’s business and pleasure often don’t mix.