A symphony season has more impact on the local economy than a football season

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Given the current situation with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Sheila Kennedy has written an interesting post about the purported economic impact that football/sports has to local economies.  This paragraph, in particular, reflects many of the things I’ve been blogging about recently regarding our misconceived views that sports has a more sustainable economic model than the arts simply by virtue of more “mass appeal”

A symphony season has far more impact on the local economy than football. Early in my academic career, I worked on a paper with an expert in the economic impact of sports. Such impact as exists is by virtue of intangibles–the value of raising the profile of the city with the team, that sort of thing. There was no direct dollar benefit. Despite that lack of immediate economic impact, we pump large amounts of public money into privately-owned sports teams and venues.

Of course, many economic impact studies on local economies by sports usually show a negative effect–the infrastructure needed to sustain a sports franchise in a city actually drains more public money (often through raising taxes) than it generates.  And as I’ve been emphasizing, ticket sales for sports is an even smaller percentage of total revenue than what we’d find in the case of orchestras which simply means there aren’t enough people buying tickets to cover the players’ salaries much less to cover operating costs of a game.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the subject for my comparison of economic impact will actually be Indianapolis.  Given that there is at least one longitudinal study about the impact of the RCA stadium, and that for the longest time the ISO was considered one of the most conservative orchestras fiscally it is interesting to speculate how more public funding to the orchestra might have given the city a little boom rather than having the drain that is the current Lucas Oil Stadium.

Anyway, read Sheila Kennedy’s post and expect me to get back to more blogging soon now that I’ve settled into more of a running life!

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