The next time someone questions the economic impact of spring training on a community, just pass them along to Vero Beach, where the loss of the Los Angeles Dodgers after Spring Training 2008 had a significant — and traceable — effect on the local economy.
Sales-tax receipts in Indian River County, where Vero Beach is located, declined $1.8 million in March 2009 when compared to March 2008: $10.8 million in 2008 versus $8.9 million in 2007. Though there was a downtown in the economy from year to year, the biggest change in the local economy was the presence of the Los Angeles Dodgers for spring training — a partial one, to be sire — in 2008. Take the Dodgers out of the equation, and you have a significant drop in sales-tax receipts. That’s a direct measure of spending: no dollars spent, no sales tax received. There was a similar drop in the local hotel/motel tax of $70,492, going from $269,198 in March 2008 to $198,706 in March 2009.
Economists with an axe to grind, of course, say the drop in sales-tax revenues was wholly due to the declining economy, and that spring training has a negligible impact on the local economy. But the numbers don’t back up that assertion, and arguing a sales-tax decline of over 10 percent was not impacted by the loss of spring training is a specious argument.