As spring begins, the smell of pine tar, the crack of the bat, the thump of a well-caught ball and the whoosh of ball thrown on a rope will be filling the air.  Orioles Opening day is just around the corner.  Prognosticators fill the airwaves with their picks and pans for the upcoming season.  Which teams will make it to the World Series and which new hot prospect will get a call to the big show are questions many excited fans are asking themselves.  While these questions have usually been decided to a degree by September and in many cases are a disappointment to most fans, hope springs eternal on opening day.  Ahead lies 162 ball games and every team has a chance to get to the World Series.

Outside of the feeling of “anything is possible this season” or “dream the impossible dream”, what does opening day mean for Baltimore in terms of dollars and cents? There are several ways to illustrate the economic impact of opening day in Baltimore.  Drawing upon some of my own past research as well as work that Towson University completed on behalf of the Maryland Stadium Authority, there are several interesting findings.

In one of my papers, I examined the cost-benefits of a baseball stadium to a city.  Obviously, a winning team will attract more fans and attendance will go up.  Based upon my research, I found that

if a team increases its current year’s winning percentage by 10%,
attendance would rise by approximately 9.6%.

If the team had a strong finish in the prior season, then that will also influence the current year’s attendance, but its impact on attendance is less than half of the current year’s winning percentage.  While I did not explicitly examine an opening day effect on attendance, I suspect that since the season is a blank canvas and fans are full of hope, outside of playoff games, opening day attendance is likely to be among the highest in a team’s season.

Photo Credit: MLB – Oriole Park @ Camden Yards

In a recent Towson University study, the economic impact of the Orioles was estimated in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment and taxes.  Over the entire season, the estimated impact of attendance at Camden Yards on Maryland’s GDP is approximately $175 million, while an estimated 2,500 annual FTE jobs are supported and over $18 million in state and local taxes are generated.  Based upon these data and the Orioles’ 2010 Opening day attendance (48,891), the impact of Opening Day on Maryland’s economy is estimated to be 50 annual FTE jobs, $3.3 million in GDP and about $350K in state and local taxes.  However, this does not include the lost productivity due to the spike in absenteeism on Opening Day.  So as they say, “Play ball!”