Year-round baseball fuels fandom and economy

Arizona is one of few states to offer year-round baseball, hosting both regular season and preseason games at various professional levels, through Cactus League spring training, Arizona Fall League, and regular season Diamondbacks games across the Valley. Altogether, the games boost the state economy, attracting out-of-state and in-state baseball fans to watch their favorite teams compete.

According to an Arizona State University study, the Cactus League – one of just two spring training leagues in the nation – attracted nearly 1.75 million fans in 2018. Of these, roughly 60 percent visited from other states and spent a daily average of $405. By the end of the preseason, these out-of-state visitors generated roughly $373 million for the state economy.

In fact, this number has grown in recent years – since 2015, the amount spent by out-of-state visitors increased by 18 percent. The biggest revenue generators are bars, restaurants, and hotels, which raked in a combined $213 million in a month of preseason baseball.

Plus, 25 percent of out-of-state visitors visited other parts of the state before or after enjoying their favorite pastime. Consequently, they likely spent additional money on tourism in cities like Flagstaff, Sedona, and Tucson, meaning that baseball alone helps fuel a quarter of tourism spending across the state.

Cactus League President Jeff Meyer expounds on the reason Arizona is a hot destination for baseball fans in the spring, “It’s a great opportunity for autographs or getting to watch batting practice in a more quaint environment. You don’t have these same opportunities during the regular season.”

Economic growth extends to minor league baseball as well. Arizona is one of just three states to have its own rookie league — the Arizona League — and it is the only state to have a minor fall league — the Arizona Fall League. Although the Arizona League is a non-revenue generating league, meaning teams don’t sell tickets or concessions, the games still generate buzz around baseball and develop fandom even after the pre- and regular seasons have ended.

Meyer explains that the Arizona League and Arizona Fall League are great places to watch young, rising stars shine. He states, “A few years ago, Bryce Harper was playing in Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, which is actually pretty close to my house. Getting to go there and watch him up close before he became a major star was a great experience, and it’s one that others can take advantage of as well.”

This economic impact doesn’t slow during the regular season. According to economist Elliott Pollack, the Arizona Diamondbacks have generated $7.5 billion for the state economy since the founding of the franchise through taxes from ticket sales, merchandise, lodging, concessions, and more – this represents roughly $415 million in annual revenue. In fact, taxes from players’ wages alone have totaled over $45 million over the years.

Not only does the combination of pre-season, regular season, and minor league baseball fuel the state economy through jobs and taxes, it also gives baseball fans a way to watch their favorite teams and players compete throughout the entire year.

Ben Norman

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