World Series spending not big boon to local economy, experts say

SHARE World Series spending not big boon to local economy, experts say

Mike Pingel tends to customers at a Clark Street Sports Cubs pop-up shop. Photo by: Alexandra Olsen

Although sports bar owners, ticket brokers and merchandise vendors can expect a surge in revenue as the Cubs continue their World Series run, experts say it won’t translate to a sizable impact on Chicago’s economy.

A brand new World Series edition Cubs cap or T-shirt could set you back around $40, and a hoodie to keep you warm during games? Twice as much.

Despite the hefty prices being paid for World Series gear, Chicagoans are so excited about the Cubs’ success they continue to shell out the money, said Jason Caref, co-owner of Clark Street Sports.

Caref said sales of Cubs merchandise have brought in the most revenue this year among the city’s sports teams. His Clark Street Sports, with more than 20 locations, have opened four pop-up shops to capitalize on the winning season.

Mike Pingel, a self-proclaimed die-hard Cubs fan and a sales representative at one of the pop-up locations, said he has “absolutely” seen an increase in sales and personally bought more gear as a result of the World Series.

“I already have a ton of stuff at home,” Pingel said. “My drawers are full, my closet is full, but how could you not find space for this stuff?”

Pingel said he has several repeat customers at the pop-up, who come back for new products almost every day.

But sports economist Michael Leeds, of Temple University in Philadelphia, said although certain sectors of Chicago’s economy might see a small bump in merchandise sales, the World Series will just barely affect the economy as a whole.

Leeds said the money spent by fans for the World Series is simply redirected from other parts of the economy. Because most fans attending this weekend’s games are from Chicago, the money they spend would have been spent elsewhere in the city even if the World Series wasn’t happening, he said.

“You really need to look at who came to Chicago and spent money they wouldn’t have otherwise spent there,” Leeds said.

Airbnb is one company hoping the out-of-town traffic will be substantial.

There are 34 rentals still open in the area that Airbnb lists as Wrigleyville; there were more than 7,000 Airbnb listings available citywide as of Thursday.

The typical median price for an Airbnb in Chicago is $100, spokesman Benjamin Breit said. But for listings this weekend in Wrigleyville, the average cost was running more than $600.

The most expensive listing: nearly $9,000 for a home that could accommodate up to six guests. The least expensive: a shared room for one guest at $169 per night.

Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College, agrees major sporting events like the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Series rarely have a big economic impact.

“If they pay $1,000 on a ticket,” he said. “Well, that’s $1,000 they won’t spend on something else.”

And, Baade noted, Cubs fans are spending some of their money in Cleveland, which could offset a boost to the Chicago economy.

Allen Sanderson, a senior lecturer in the economics department at the University of Chicago, said the Cubs’ regular season has a larger economic impact on the city than events like the World Series.

He said the World Series could, at least, give Chicago some “good publicity.”

“I think the economic impact is small,” said Sanderson. “Although the psychological impact is clearly large.”

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