Last month, WLOX did a fantastic story on whether the city of Biloxi was getting what was financially promised from a new ballpark that was built 10 years ago. The short answer is not even slightly.
The ballpark was to be built for the Biloxi Shuckers, the Class AA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2015, the city spent $36 million to build a new ballpark. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant claimed the new ballpark “would be an economic development driver for the area”. A local foundation estimated that this new ballpark would result in “an additional $10 million annually in visitor spending”. As AL.com notes, the ballpark came with a “promise of home runs inside and outside the stadium”.
To be fair to the team, WLOX did find restaurants and bars around the ballpark claim that they were busier during game days. This means more income for local businesses and additional sales tax going to the city. The problem is that the city borrowed $21 million to build the ballpark. Yearly payments for this debt are $1.2 million for another 11 years. When you add up all the revenues from the new ballpark, you get a yearly grand total of $450,000. That leaves $750,000 left to be repaid with taxpayer money every year.
- The team’s tickets generated $221,000 for Biloxi.
- The team paid $150,000 in rent
- The team paid $56,000 in sales tax
- The team paid $25,000 for a ballpark repair fund.
- Total = $450,000
- The numbers come from records acquired by WLOX.
Ok, let’s blame it on COVID-19. Well, if we look at the ballpark’s 2019 numbers, we see the same figures as 2022. That excuse is out. What about that economic-impact report by Johnson Consulting that claimed if a new ballpark was built, Biloxi would be “one of the top-drawing teams in the league” and would draw 20 additional outside baseball events? Yeah, neither of these happened. If you want to see how wrong Johnson Consulting is with their reports, head over to Field Of Schemes and read about their laughable past.
Another reason for this deal going bad was due to how quickly it all came together. When the team approached the city, they wanted to start the upcoming season in Biloxi and therefore needed agreements to be done quickly. The movement was so fast that the city council had to officially pause the negotiations so that they could take a deep breath and review the agreement through a feasibility study.
Some saw this disaster beginning to form earlier than others. In 2017, the Sun Herald wrote a story titled “When will downtown Biloxi see a baseball boom?” As the newspaper notes, what happened to the promised “flurry of development” after the ballpark was built? Little to nothing new has been built because of the new ballpark. Before the ballpark was agreed upon, local city leaders were given several attendance projections. All of them vastly over-stated how many would come to the new ballpark. One claimed that 280,000 people would visit the ballpark during the regular season. The real number is just hovers around 180,000 most years. Some higher, Some lower.
Consequently, what do we have now? We have attendance that continues to fall ridiculously short of projections every year. We also have 11 more years of debt payments that will likely need to be significantly covered by the local taxpayers.