Don’t Worry, Local Economy, The Lockout Won’t Hurt You, Says Know-It-All

This is annoying. In a post deriding blanket statements and inaccurate generalizations, Eric T. of Broad St. Hockey makes blanket statements and inaccurate generalizations that only a know-it-all attacking the same can do:

The connection between the lockout and the losses of arena-area businesses are more direct and visible than the connection to gains of other local ventures, which may make them more sympathetic to some. However, the overall net result is not a loss to the city. … The lockout does not have any impact on the local economy overall; it merely redistributes revenue from one business to another.

Yes, clearly, every dollar that would have been spent on hockey will in fact definitely be spent elsewhere in the exact same NHL city. The local realities of a city don’t matter: simplistic economic “facts” will hold true and there will be nothing for the local economy as a whole to worry about.

We all know every city is exactly the same, right? All with vibrant downtowns and equal entertainment opportunities in all cases? There are clearly no cities with different circumstances, with sizable suburban populations that don’t go into the city without a good reason and that vastly outnumber the urban population.

Right.

I understand that not every city is looking at a local recession or something because of the lockout. Maybe none are. But the kinds of blanket statements that say there will be no net effect are just as bad as those that are claiming it’ll be across-the-board awful.

A city like Detroit is one example of a specific area that will take a definite hit in the absence of a crowd hitting the town for a hockey game, even with its improvements in terms of entertainment downtown in recent years.

When baseball and football are over, there won’t be a sports reason to go downtown if the lockout goes on long enough. The Pistons are far out in the suburbs. Maybe some of that money will get spent at casinos and theaters in the city, but it’s equally safe to say that a sizeable contingent of suburban JLA regulars will keep their money in the outer ring. That’s great for the outer ring but not great specifically for Detroit.

There are other cities in similar circumstances. The rhetoric on the issue doesn’t have to doomsday on the one hand and nothing to worry about on the other. There’s a middle way. It just takes more nuance.

It’s ironic, because Eric T. goes after copycat reports for missing that kind of nuance, yet does the same himself.

I also find his suggestion that there’s an ulterior motive behind the claim that the lockout will have an economic impact interesting.

After months of saying that I don’t see why the battle for public relations matters to anyone other than the fans, I finally see a possible connection.

Teams get heavy subsidies from local governments in the form of publicly financed arena deals. If politicians believe that the lockout has generally been the fault of the owners and now are led to believe that the lockout is sharply damaging the local economy, one imagines that they would exert whatever pressure they can on the owners to end the lockout — or perhaps they might be less supportive of the next round of arena subsidies.

The lockout does not have any impact on the local economy overall; it merely redistributes revenue from one business to another. The rash of articles suggesting otherwise will likely mislead many of the readers, and if those readers include local politicians, the misleading articles could even impact the lockout itself. Whether or not the NHLPA has suggested this line of investigation to local reporters, there is a reasonable chance that the articles are helping the players’ cause.

That is indeed possible. However, a simpler, less exciting answer may lie in an explanation that accepts that in some cases, it’s simply true the lockout can hurt a city’s economy.

There’s also the fact that we’re in a slow technical recovery from a recession that still feels recession-like, and consumer confidence is low. Take away another reason to spend money and there may be people who opt not to spend it. The entertainment buck is not a guaranteed spend. A quick glance did not reveal anything in the studies Eric T. cites about a recession or slow recovery’s impact in these cases, so I have to wonder how valuable they are here.

I would love to see more detailed and informed reporting on this. I think it’s a necessary part of a sports market reporter’s job. Questions of how much impact a team has on the economy are important to answer, even in bad times. Team owners trumpet their positive impact when venue construction is on the table. We should know the negatives, if any, too.

Filed under: NHL, NHLPA

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