EXCLUSIVE: PawSox Consultant’s Findings in Other Cities Often Very Rosy

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


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A GoLocalProv review of reports written by consultants hired by the PawSox new ownership group finds similarities in the methodology and the findings of many of the reports that the consultants have delivered across the country.

The firm, Brailsford & Dunlavey, has a portfolio of hundreds of teams and venues across the country in a variety of sports. In the past decade, Brailsford & Dunlavey has been hired by pro teams and governmental entities looking at the viability of minor league baseball teams. GoLocalProv obtained ten different reports developed by the firm.

Six of the reports reviewed by GoLocalProv were specifically for minor league baseball projects and each was secured from municipalities or counties across the United States through public record requests.

The new owners of the Triple A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox are a who’s who of captains of industry from Boston, Providence -- and a number who have left Rhode Island and moved to Florida such as Tom Ryan, former CEO of CVS and Terry Murray, the former CEO of Fleet Bank. Collectively the owners have personal wealth in the billions cumulatively.

As GoLocalTV reported last week, the new ownership group is looking for not only for a land subsidy, but also land from the state for a hotel project.

Pawtucket Red Sox attendance has fallen steeply over the past decade according to Minor League Baseball stats. For the 2005 season, the Pawtucket Red Sox drew 688,421 in 72 games for a per game average of 9,561. Ten seasons later, the Paw Sox drew just 515,665 in 70 games for a per game average of 7,367 - a 23% decline.

The firm hired by the new PawSox owners self describe themselves as working to furhther its clients' interests. 

“Our Research and Methods team continually acquires and disseminates the most current and usable data on the facility types where we specialize, which helps our clients achieve their project goals," writes Brailsford and Dunlavey on its webstie. 

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Household Size Analysis - Finding are Similar in Different Cities


In reviewing two different reports issued to two different clients, the findings were similar in key areas of the reports prepared by the consutling firm hired by the PawSox new ownership group.

For both the Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority and Virginia Beach project, language about the importance of “Household Size” as a key indicator for the success of minor league teams was remarkably similar despite significant differences between the two communities.



Household Size

Along with ballpark age, market population is one of the most predictive characteristics of ballpark attendance. Fredericksburg has nearly 400,000 people in 131,000 households within the 30-minute drive time area. This market area is expected to grow at nearly two percent (2%) annually over the next five years. Fredericksburg’s average residents per household is 2.95, which is nearly 20% larger than its market peers. Given minor league baseball’s focus on affordable family entertainment, a higher resident per household figure bodes well for attendance levels.


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Virginia Beach:

Household Size

Along with ballpark age, market population is one of the most predictive characteristics of ballpark attendance. Virginia Beach has an aggregate population of 1,006,816 in 373,493 households within the 30-minute drive time area. Within the comparable set, Virginia Beach ranks third in population and number of households. Virginia Beach’s average residents per household is 2.70, which exceeds the comparable average of 2.53. Given the Atlantic League’s focus on affordable family entertainment, a higher resident per household figure bodes well for attendance levels.

Regardless of Size of Markets, Consultant Finds Similar Attendance

In the case of the Brailsford & Dunlavey report delivered to the Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority, the report found that the minor league team could support average attendance of 4,000 per game in a market of just 386,766 within a 30 minute drive: 

Market Capture Analysis by Population

Using demographic and attendance data from each comparable market, B&D completed a market capture analysis to project attendance at a newly-constructed stadium. Each team’s average annual attendance from 2008 to 2012 was translated into a percentage of the 30-minute drive time population for each market. When the average capture rate of 71% is applied to the Fredericksburg market, the potential annual paid attendance is just over 4,000 per game for 68 games. When the Great Lakes’ capture ratio of 86.5% is applied, a Fredericksburg ballpark could draw up to 5,000 attendees per game.

Similarly, Brailsford & Dunlavey found that a market area three times the size of Fredericksburg would deliver similar attendance. The report delivered for Virginia Beach, Virginia which has a total population of 1,006,816 also supports a team with an estimated attendance of 4,600.

Market Capture Analysis by Total Population

B&D completed a series of capture analyses to provide a context in which to estimate likely attendance levels for a new Atlantic League ballpark in Virginia Beach. Firstly, using demographic and attendance data from each comparable market, B&D conducted a capture analysis based on the comparable set. Each team’s average annual attendance from 2009 to 2013 was translated
into a percentage of the 30-minute drive time population for each market. When the average capture rate of 0.5% is applied to the Virginia Beach market, the potential annual paid attendance is just over 4,600 per game prior to considering the operation of the Norfolk Tides.

If Brailsford & Dunlavey utilizes the same methodology for the proposed Providence ballpark, then the project may be doomed. Rhode Island's average residents per household is only 2.46 which is significantly lower than the U.S. average of 2.63 and dramatically lower than both Virginia Beach and Fredericksburg.


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Portland Sea Dogs

Hotel Projects in the Tens of Thousands Per Year

According to Brailsford & Dunlavey, the economic benefits of a minor league baseball team seems remarkable. The consultants found that for Hartford, Connecticut proposed project, more than 23,000 hotel nights would be realized annually - an average of nearly 330 rooms per game. Even more optimistic was the firms projections for Columbia, South Carolina.  Brailsford & Dunlavey projected 35,000 or 500 rooms per night average for each Class A minor league game in Columbia. It should be noted that both venues were expected to have some limited concerts and other events.

The only project GoLocal could find that Brailsford & Dunlavey said was not viable was the development of a new baseball stadium in Portland, Maine to house the Sea Dogs.  In 1999, a Portland Press Herald article noted that one of the principals raised concerns about a new ballpark in Portland. "We believe that our market analysis raises a few 'red flags' about the limits of the potential
upsides of the market,’ wrote Christopher S. Dunlavey."

Ultimately a new stadium was built in Portland -  Hadlock Field was built with a capacity of 6,000 and has been subsequently expanded three times to a present capacity of 7,368.

According to Minor League Baseball statistics, the Sea Dogs have averaged between 5,000 and 6.400 in 2007. In 2014, the Sea Dogs’ attendance was 5,530.

According to the Brailsford & Dunlavey, “More than 85% of the development projects B&D plans get approved, funded, and built. We attribute this track record to the care our teams take on the front end of project planning to align the program with the client’s mission and strategy.”

Repeated efforts by phone, email and LinkedIn to reach B.J. Rudell, Director of Marketing at Brailsford & Dunlavey went unanswered.


Related Slideshow: The Ten Biggest Questions Facing the PawSox Coming to Providence

If the new ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox want to build a new stadium in Providence, a number of questions need to be answered.  The potential for a major contruction project in the state's capitial city touches upon a number of issues, from money, to politics, to jobs, and development.  

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Owner interests?

What are the owners looking for from the state?

It's been one week since the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox was announced -- and their intention to look at Providence as a potential new location for the Red Sox AAA affiliate.  How long this has been their plan is unclear but what is more certain is the new owners are considering the pursuit of some public funding to be on the table.  What will they be seeking from the city and state, and how much?  As the state still reels from the failed 38 Studios deal, look to see what might be proposed -- and how the public reacts.  

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Public funding?

How much is the city -- and state -- willing to give?

While the new ownership has indicated that Providence is tops on their list for a new location for the PawSox, there are other cities and towns that could vie for attention. "I said to Mr. Skeffington, if Pawtucket could pull it out, would they be interested, but he said basically if it's not Providence, it would be a broader catch area," said City Council President Louis Aponte, of his conversation with the new ownership.  As the state and its capital city deliberate the best use of downtown real estate -- and the news 195 land -- how much will they be willing to make the new owners happy, especially if they starting pitting Providence against other locales?

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Economic impact?

What is the potential economic impact on Providence?

If Providence is the new home of the PawSox, it gets a ball club that has seen attendance at McCoy top 500,000 for 16 straight years -- only Louisville, Columbus, Buffalo, and Indianapolis have longer streaks.  "Anytime you can draw in on average 7500 people for games, it brings brings value to the state," John Gibbons, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission, told GoLocal in January.  "That type of business doesn't necessarily draw in hotel use, but I know those facilities nearby do well when the PawSox play, and I know they bring in tax dollars every night with the sales at the park."  Jobs aside, watch to see who conducts economic impact studies -- and what that means in terms of any negotiations between owners and the city. 

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Jobs retained?

How many jobs will be retained?

Pawtucket's loss is Providence's gain, and the questions is does that go for jobs as well as economic impact.  How many of the existing PawSox job holders will see an opportunity in Providence?  Will the new ownership bring in new vendors, new office staff, new grounds crew? Will there be any downsizing in an attempt to streamline operations?   

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Jobs created?

How many jobs will be created?

One of the bigger questions is will a new Sox stadium create any new jobs in a state that certainly needs them.  Construction of a new stadium would no doubt provide short-term labor opportunities for the buildings and construction trades, but what about long term opportunities?  The development of the 195 land is beginning to take shape after addressing infrastructure needs, and now the city and state are looking to capitalize on the potential to foster high job growth industries.  Does a new baseball stadium fit that bill?  

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New business?

What will get built around it?

The potential location for a baseball stadium that is currently being discussed is the land just to the north of the South Street Landing project, the mixed-use multi-million dollar project will be a new home to a Rhode Island nursing education Center, Brown University offices and graduate student housing as well as a parking garage.  There are multiple 195 parcels on the land west of the river.  Will addition parking options be needed?  The PawSox play approximately 70 home games a year.  Who will step up as potential new neighbors?

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195 Plan?

How does it fit into 195 development?

Governor Gina Raimondo during her campaign called for the 195 land to be used as a manufacturing hub.  “In order to rebuild our economy, we have to start making things in Rhode Island again,” said Raimondo during the campaign. “My strategy will be to take the good ideas coming out of our universities and colleges and turn them into products we manufacture here. We have a historic opportunity with this I-195 land and we have to get it right." There are over eighteen acres available for development -- and Raimondo shook up the 195 commission last month with her own set of appointees, who have yet to make any major moves - as of yet.  

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What level of transparency will be disclosed?

The announcement of the sale of the PawSox to its new ownership group was followed by a press conference led by new owner James Skeffington.  While Skeffington offered ballpark figures for how much a new stadium might cost -- he cited $60-$70 million for other stadiums of its size -- what's unclear is how much the owners paid for the ball club.  If the ownership (whose personal wealth combined totals over $1 billion) seeks public funding, how much will they be willing -- and required -- to disclose about personal financial interests?

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Big picture?

Should Raimondo focus on larger issues?

Rhode Island's new Governor is entering her third month in office, set to introduce her first budget proposal in two weeks, and is facing tackling a projected $200 million budget deficit.  Having recently announced a working group to overhaul Medicaid, following identification of the state's most pressing fiscal issues, can the Governor afford to spend time brokering a deal for a minor league sports stadium?  Raimondo spoke of a state Innovation Institute being the cornerstone of her 195 vision -- will subsidizing a minor league ballpark be a focus of the administration?  

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Track record?

How have other deals performed – Convention Center, Airport, 38 Studios, Produce Market, Providence Place?

Providence hasn't seen major capital projects since Waterplace Towers changed the city skyline following the completion of the Providence Place Mall and the new Convention Center.  Since then, the failed 38 Studios deal has brought into scrutiny private companies being underwritten with moral obligation bonds -- and tax stabilization agreements in the city have similarly undergone scrutiny by the city council and taxpaying public.   Will a look a past projects play a role in the development of a stadium?


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