10 Takeaways From the Cactus League Economic Report With the Really Long Name

10 Takeaways From the Cactus League Economic Report With the Really Long Name (2)
Blake Benard

This won't come as a shock: The Cactus League, Major League Baseball's annual spring training competition in Arizona, means big business for the Phoenix area and the state.

Visitors from outside Metro Phoenix generated $373 million for Arizona's gross domestic product in 2018, according to an estimate released Monday by the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business. Or, the LWSRIASUWPCSOB. Whew. Let's just call it the Carey SOB study for short. 

How does that compare to previous years?

That's a little complicated. A 2015 Carey SOB study found that the total economic output from the Cactus League was $554.3 million. Not to worry, though, we're not slipping. Using the same measuring sticks as three years ago, the 2018 season generated $644.2 million in economic activity, an 11 percent increase despite a slightly shortened season. Don't ask us to do the math.

Either way, it's a lot of cash coming into Arizona.

The 2017 Final Four generated $317 million in less than a week, according to a similar study, and the 2015 Super Bowl brought in $719 million over nine days.

"We have studied the economic impact of major sporting evenst in Arizona like the Super Bowl and the Final Four, and while they create massive economic impact, they occur here intermittently," according to Anthony Evans, the Carey SOB study's author. "The Cactus League brings an impact of this magnitude every year. It is phenomenal – and it happens every spring in this state."

Here are some more takeaways from the survey of almost 4,000 out-of-town visitors at the games in February and March:

• Visitors do a lot of eating and drinking, spending $122.6 million on food and booze, about a third more than they spent on lodging. Of course, you don't need an academic researcher to tell you that if you'd stood in line at Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale in March.

• The next biggest expenditure is souvenirs, at $34.7 million ... which is a lot of caps and T-shirts. Yours truly bought 15 hats this spring. You're welcome.

• The number of big spenders has increased over the last three years, with 41 percent spending $500 or more per day, up from 35 percent in 2015. The median daily spending also increased from $393 to $405.

• International visitors, as you might guess, linger longer in the Valley. Almost a third were here for nine nights or more, and their median stay was five nights. Only 13 percent of other U.S. visitors stayed nine nights or more, and their median stay was four nights. Almost 40 percent of U.S. visitors from outside of Arizona were here from three to four nights.

• By contrast, 91 percent of Arizonans from outside metro Phoenix are day-trippers. So their economic contributions are minimal.

• All Arizonans do benefit from the Cactus League, however, as spring training generated $31.9 million in taxes, $24.2 million of that going to the state. Moreover, 26 percent of out-of-state visitors reported that they would visit another part of the state during their trip. We imagine the Grand Canyon and Sedona were high on their to-do lists.

• Attendance was down slightly in 2018 because the schedule was shorted by four days and 24 games. Total attendance was 1,796,403, compared to 1.9 million in 2017. And average game attendance actually increased by more than 100 fans to 7,710.

• There was a huge rise in Cactus League virgins. Twenty-eight percent were seeing their first spring training game here in 2018, compared to only 8 percent in 2015. Interestingly, 18.5 percent of the fans who live in metro Phoenix finally got out to a game, which may explain why it seemed like there were a lot of empty desks at the office this spring. 

• Politicians promise to create jobs, but the Cactus League gets it done, the study found, producing 6,439 jobs paying $224.6 million, which is even more than Zack Greinke's contract with the Diamondbacks.

Let's close with one more obligatory quote about the Carey SOB study:

"This is a grand slam for Arizona's economy," Cactus League President Jeff Meyer said.

Hard to argue that call.

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Stuart Warner is editor of New Times. He has been a journalist since the stoned ages of 1969, playing a major role on teams that won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the author of the biography JOCK: A Coach's Story.
Contact: Stuart Warner