Who Attends Games and Why
Proponents of public subsidies for professional sports teams often laud the tourist attraction provided by said teams. Two important questions that need to be asked are 1. what proportion of people in attendance are tourists and 2. why are they there?
Skip Sauer, one of my co-bloggers at The Sports Economist, alerted me to this paper by Jahn Hakes and Kyle Hutmaker that examines the effect of travel costs on the demand for season ticket sales for the Atlanta Braves. One of the things they mention is that 92% of the season ticket sales are made by people whose zip code is within 100 miles of the home team's stadium. Granted, this study only examines one team in one year, it only examines season ticket sales, and there may be discrepancies between where a person is travelling from and where his/her home zip code is. Hakes and Hutmaker have attempted to control for these problems as best they can and they provide evidence of who buys tickets to regular season baseball games: locals, largely.
As far as sports as a tourist destination, I just got my registration for this summer's WEA conference in San Francisco (where I'll be presenting an as-yet-to-be-written paper comparing arbitration and free agency in baseball). One of the events listed on the conference brochure (which I would love to take in) is a Reds-Giants game. Most of the conference attendees who go to the game will be considered out-of-towners, but it would be a mistake to include us in an estimate of the tourist impact of the Giants. None of us travelled to San Francisco to see the game and decided to take in an economics conference while we were there. Instead, it is the other way around.