If We Build It, Will They Compete?

Fans of professional sports teams are by now used to the argument “we need a new stadium to be competitive” from owners (Neil deMause in his Field of Schemes website calls this “leveling the playing field”). The validity of this claim may be considered rhetorically (see again deMause’s Field of Schemes or a take by Doug Pappas); we do not engage in that herein. Rather, we take the claim at face value and statistically test whether new stadiums are associated with “more competitiveness” in Major League Baseball. We first measure “competitiveness” the way the team owners implicitly claim: wins. However, since one could argue that an increased effort by management to put a winner on the field does not necessarily mean the team will win more, we also consider payroll. After all, inherent to the argument is that more revenue means more pay for the team which in turn, hopefully, leads to more wins. There is yet another wrench in the works, though: teams frequently increase payroll every year if for no other reason than inflation. We thus also quantify a team’s payroll relative to other teams via both the rank of the teams’ payrolls every year, with largest payroll being rank “1,” and, since big changes in payroll for some teams will not change the ranks, percentage change in payroll. The other side of the revenue story is the fans’ enthusiasm for the team. We take a stab at this angle through an analysis of team season attendance.

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