NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Sports Fans Tire of Spending Taxpayers' Money?

May 6, 2003

No other city has completely replaced its sports infrastructure as fast as Houston, Texas. Some experts say Houston may be suffering from an emerging sports malady: new stadium fatigue.

The Houston Rockets basketball team will be the third in four years to move to a new facility. Baseball's Astros moved in 2000, football's Texans last year. All three facilities were funded with taxpayers' help, via the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.

  • In years past, franchises that moved into new facilities enjoyed a five- to seven-year attendance boost, says Dennis Howard, a sports marketing expert at the University of Oregon.
  • But in a study to be published this summer, Howard and John Crompton of Texas A&M University found that of 35 teams that moved to new playpens since 1995, two-thirds enjoyed a bump of one year or less.

Sales of corporate suites at the Rockets' new arena are slow and no naming-rights deal has been made.

  • With five months to go before the grand opening in September, the Rockets as of last week had sold about a third of their 92 corporate suites.
  • By contrast, the Astros football team sold nearly all their suites in advance, and the Texans sold all of theirs and are building more.

"This is the weakest time to be selling naming rights in the Houston market," said Mark Rosentraub, an expert on sports and public policy at Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Source: Bruce Nichols "As Rockets prepare for arena's launch, Houston yawns," Dallas Morning News, May 4, 2003.


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