March 14, 2008
Sunday Beer Sales and Baseball Attendance

The GA legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow the Gwinnett Braves (the relocated Richmond Braves) to sell beer at their stadium on Sundays. Unlike Sunday sales for the Rome Braves which were allowed by a city referendum in 2004, the Gwinnett matter must go before the legislature because its stadium is in an uncorporated area rather than a city. If the legislature doesn't approve Sunday sales the Braves apparently have the right to renegotiate or even pull out of their commitment to move to Gwinnett in 2009. More background here.

The legislative kerfuffle over Sunday beer for Gwinnett brought to mind my recent IJSF paper (with math colleague Ron Taylor and former student Andrew Chupp). Rome's 2004 referendum created a natural experiment for us to assess the effect of alcohol availability on attendance. We compared the Rome Braves 2003 and 2004 Sunday attendance (before beer sales were allowed) to their 2005-2006 Sunday attendance when beer was available. (We controlled for lots of other factors that might influence attendance--promotions, rehab appearances by Chipper Jones, ...) We found that allowing Sunday sales resulted in a small (2%) and statistically insignificant increase in attendance. Attendance does seem to be influenced by cheap beer--the team offers two for one beverages on Thursdays and draws about 8% more fans than on other weeknights. While Rome's experience may not carry over to other communities, our paper does call into question the conventional wisdom about beer and attendance.

A footnote: In the Gwinnett Daily Post article linked above, Georgia's mercantilist Gov. Sonny Perdue refers to the Gwinnett stadium as an "economic development project." Hey guv--saying it's so, doesn't make it so.

ADDENDUM: I left something out of the initial post. Even if beer sales have a weak effect on attendance, they can be an important source of revenue for teams. Using some information on the amount of beer taxes the Rome Braves paid to the city of Rome, my co-authors and I did some back of the envelope calculations and estimated the team gets an additional $40,000 or so per year in beer revenue from Sunday sales. A correspondent indicates that a large professional event can draw $1m in concession revenue with half being attributable to beer.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:19 AM in Economics

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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