State Sen. Martin Looney threw out the first pitch of an early mayoral campaign war of words last month when he announced his plan to publicly fund a new stadium for the New Haven Ravens minor league baseball franchise, kicking off an exchange of reports by the Looney campaign and that of incumbent Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
In the latest at-bat, the Looney campaign released Wednesday a report titled “Leadership Never Strikes Out,” defending the stadium plan. Looney and Ravens president W. Edward Massey discussed the report at a press conference at Yale Field, the current home of the Ravens.
The six-page document was issued just two days after the DeStefano campaign released “Striking Out: Why a New Stadium Should Not Be a Priority.”
In Wednesday’s report, the Looney campaign maintained that the stadium would benefit the city’s economic development by increasing tax revenue and jobs, bringing people into the city and increasing New Haven’s overall quality of life.
The report said the Ravens currently generate 15 full-time jobs, 211 seasonal jobs, $670,000 in total payroll and $456,300 in tax revenues. It presumes that these numbers could only go up with a new stadium, which would improve the current poor attendance of the team.
Monday’s DeStefano report cited several academic studies that argued stadium construction has had no beneficial impact on local economies. The DeStefano campaign wrote that it would rather focus on housing, home ownership and downtown revitalization.
On Wednesday, Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99, DeStefano’s campaign manager, said the reports had different tones.
“They have numbers that come out of thin air,” Gonzalez said. “I have sophisticated empirical research saying that in cities that have tried the strategy, there has been no benefit.”
But Looney campaign manager Jason Bartlett said the debate should come down to more than just statistics.
“It’s more than just quantifying what the economic impact is,” Bartlett said. “Its about the image of New Haven and the effect enhancing New Haven’s image has on New Haven.”
One issue on which the two campaigns disagree is the “substitution effect.” The DeStefano campaign has argued that the stadium would not provide a significant revenue increase because it would merely draw attendance away from other New Haven entertainment venues.
But Bartlett said the stadium would complement existing entertainment.
“People are always looking for things to do. Baseball, soccer or lacrosse are more family-oriented venues, whereas the Long Wharf Theater or the Shubert are more adult venues,” Bartlett said.
Gonzalez said the Looney campaign had no concrete way of showing attendance would not mainly come from substitution.
The DeStefano cited reports by several scholars, including Mark Rosentraub of Indiana University and Roger Noll of Stanford, which questioned the economic benefits gained by building stadiums. But Bartlett said studies were not important.
“You can find an economist to say anything you want, and you can take numbers and make them fit into your hypothesis or your theory,” Bartlett said. “I’m not interested in going tit-for-tat about what this economist said or what that economist said.”
Bartlett said the stadium plan was not a panacea for the city, but rather part of a larger economic plan which would include several other things, including housing.
Above all, the Looney report stressed that a stadium would bring cachet to the city, which would lure consumers and businesses alike.
Gonzalez said DeStefano would support a stadium under the right circumstances, but that the mayor’s current economic plan was less risky and has been proven to accomplish good results.
Looney and DeStefano will face off in the September Democratic primary.