How much should a ballpark cost?

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Note: I've received word that Thursday morning's Tulsa Development Authority meeting involving Will and Cecilia Wilkins and Novus Homes LLC's exclusive negotiating agreement has been moved to the 10th floor of One Technology Center (the new City Hall).

One of the questions raised in my column this week is about the downtown Drillers stadium assessment and exactly what all of that $60 million in assessments, donations, and stadium rent will be paying for. Let's start with this question: How much should a minor league ballpark cost?

A reader sends along a link to this study by Confluence Research,Minor League Baseball Stadium Construction: A Primer on the Key Issues and Considerations, commissioned by Ripken Management and Design, and completed in 2004. The study compared construction costs and capacities for stadiums completed between 1990 and 2004. As of 2004, 62% of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues-affiliated minor league ballparks in Classes AAA, AA, High A, and Low A were built after 1990. Of those post-1990 parks, AA stadium construction averaged $1806 per seat in 1990 dollars. Applying their inflation rule, that would be $2,621 per seat in 2004. A 6,000 seat stadium at that rate would cost $15.7 million.

Of course, costs have gone up even in the last four years. According to this handy CPI calculator from the Minneapolis branch of the Fed, consumer prices have risen 14% over four years. That would put cost per seat at $2,987.94. Round it up to an even $3,000 per seat, and that gets you to $18 million for a 6,000 seat ballpark.

Five ballparks have been built in the Texas League in the last eight years: Round Rock, Tex., Frisco, Tex., Springfield, Mo., North Little Rock, Ark., and Springdale, Ark. Round Rock's 7,816-seat park was built in 2000 for $20 million. Frisco's park seats 10,600 and was finished in 2003 for $22 million. Hammons Field in Springfield seats 7,500 plus 2,000 general admission, and opened in 2004; it cost $32 million.

Dickey-Stephens Stadium, home of the Arkansas Travelers, seats 5,800, opened in 2007, and is the most expensive of the bunch at $40.4 million, but that appears to include the value of donations for riverfront land and other costs, something that isn't an issue for Tulsa. The original construction contract was for $27.6 million, and there was a $6 million cost overrun, which would put the construction cost at around $34 million.

Finally, let's look at the cost of building the most recent ballpark in our region: Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Arkansas, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The park seats 6,500, slightly bigger than the size cited for a new Drillers ballpark. It was completed earlier this year and opened in April at the start of the new Texas League season. While the City of Springdale passed a $50 million bond issue for costs related to the park, about $18 million was for access roads, sewer line extensions, and other infrastructure improvements to enable access to the park. The contract for building the park itself was with Crossland Construction for $32.1 million.

From the (Northwest Arkansas Times, October 5, 2007):

The Naturals, the double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, will play their first game in the new venue April 10 of next year. A tour of the construction site Thursday revealed the progress made since the city of Springdale awarded the $32.1-million contract to Crossland Construction of Kansas in June.

The initial estimate was 29.3 million; Crossland's low bid was 33.4 million.

More citations for the $32 million figure:

Northwest Arkansas Times, April 8, 2008:

From the $ 105 million bond program for road construction approved by Springdale voters in 2003 to Thursday night's premier of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at Arvest Ballpark - a $ 32 million public facility approved by just 13 votes in July 2006 - voters in Springdale are taking extraordinary steps to move past the city's blue-collar image and full-steam ahead into the 21 st century.

Topeka Capitol Journal, April 20, 2008:

But Springdale, Ark., is betting its minor league baseball venture has all of the correct variables after building a $32 million stadium to lure the Royals' team out of Wichita.

Arvest Ballpark opened April 10 in Springdale with 7,820 fans to witness the Northwest Arkansas Naturals' debut against San Antonio.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 8, 2008:

The lights are bright and the grass is green at Arvest Ballpark.

Hailed as the premier venue in Springdale, the ballpark caters to the beer-and-burger crowd in the stands as well as the cocktail set in the luxury suites.

Elected officials and business leaders say the ballpark is proof that a new day is dawning in traditionally working-class Springdale.

But the question remains: Does the city have enough money to keep its $32 million diamond polished?

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webworm Author Profile Page said:

The reason this downtown ballpark is going for 60 million is because of all of the usual reasons: just think of all the palms that must be greased to get the locals to go along with such a scam. Ms N227KT is a very skillful operator in this sort of deal. Just look at the street fixing manipulations!

RecycleMichael said:

Springdale Arkansas needed $50 million for their ballpark and Tulsa is looking at %60 million for theirs. Theirs was two years earlier and costs have gone up.

I don't understand why you think the Tulsa Ballpark is way out of line. It seems to be a little more, but not so much more.

What is so bad about building a really nice ballpark and surrounding area?

Let's be precise: Springdale paid $32 million to Crossland Construction to build the ballpark. How much the ballpark itself costs is where you can compare apples to apples. Surrounding infrastructure is going to vary from site to site.

Springdale needed to turn some two lane streets into four lane streets and there were other costs involved in putting something big in a part of town that wasn't set up to handle a lot of traffic and a lot of people. Those sorts of costs don't apply to Archer and Elgin. What we need is full disclosure of where there money is coming from and what they plan to spend the money on.

It's funny -- we know a lot more about what Will Wilkins wants to do with the TDA property northwest of Elgin and Archer and how much it's going to cost than we do about what the ballpark donors want to do with the TDA property northeast of Elgin and Archer and with money coerced from other downtown property owners.

webworm Author Profile Page said:

Here are a couple of thoughts: We already have a nice ball park; one of the very nicest anywhere. There is a lot of parking and it is centrally located. There was no facility in Bentonville. We don't need a new facility. There is the thought, and only a very vague thought, that "if you build it, they will come". Only time will decide if the Greenwood area will support an entertainment area. My guess is that it will not. People have already told us that they will not drive downtown to a baseball game. Maybe the latest scam (I-244 and Yale) would help by moving these people out of downtown, but my prediction is that they would rather sleep in an alley downtown than be an inmate of a "homeless center" somewhere else!

What's really interesting in all these discussions is what is being left out. If Richard Florida's "Creative Class" distinctions are correct, spending money on a stadium is pretty stupid because it will not attract this new wave of top-earning Americans. Spending less on a multiplicity of activity venues (something that involves you as a participant rather than a spectator) is more likely to help attract longer-term, more interesting investments to Tulsa.

If I were Tulsan, I would want OKC to get the blue-collar jobs while I took all the finance and executive positions by building on the distinctions that already make Tulsa a Creative Class possibility.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 6, 2008 11:28 PM.

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I-244 & Yale vagrant facility on Council agenda is the next entry in this blog.

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