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Loss of spring training means loss of millions to Indian River County

Opponents of public funding for spring-training facilities say baseball fans have a negligible effect on the local economy. But after local sales-tax receipts plummeted by $1.8 million — more than 10 percent — in Indian River County after the loss of the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cactus League, that argument may not hold water.

The next time someone questions the economic impact of spring training on a community, just pass them along to Vero Beach, where the loss of the Los Angeles Dodgers after Spring Training 2008 had a significant — and traceable — effect on the local economy.

Sales-tax receipts in Indian River County, where Vero Beach is located, declined $1.8 million in March 2009 when compared to March 2008: $10.8 million in 2008 versus $8.9 million in 2007. Though there was a downtown in the economy from year to year, the biggest change in the local economy was the presence of the Los Angeles Dodgers for spring training — a partial one, to be sire — in 2008. Take the Dodgers out of the equation, and you have a significant drop in sales-tax receipts. That's a direct measure of spending: no dollars spent, no sales tax received. There was a similar drop in the local hotel/motel tax of $70,492, going from $269,198 in March 2008 to $198,706 in March 2009.

Economists with an axe to grind, of course, say the drop in sales-tax revenues was wholly due to the declining economy , and that spring training has a negligible impact on the local economy. But the numbers don't back up that assertion, and arguing a sales-tax decline of over 10 percent was not impacted by the loss of spring training is a specious argument.

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