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Officials say Mississippi Braves’ move to Columbus could boost city’s economy

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(The Center Square) — A Columbus State University professor’s economic impact study found the Mississippi Braves’ move to Georgia will be a boon for the community, but a second expert said the deal is closer to a strikeout than a grand slam.

Last month, Diamond Baseball Holdings, the owner of the Mississippi Braves, the Atlanta Braves’ Double-A affiliate, announced the team would relocate from Pearl, Mississippi, to Columbus, Georgia, after the 2024 season.

The Columbus Consolidated Government approved up to $50 million in bonds to overhaul Golden Park, which opened in 1926. According to the analysis, the deal is part of a $300 million project to redevelop the park and the South Commons Softball Complex; it also includes a mixed-use development.

According to research from Fady Mansour, director of the Butler Center for Business and Economic Research and an associate professor of economics, the region could expect a “direct and indirect economic output” totaling roughly $475 million. If realized, that would increase Muscogee County’s gross domestic product by $260 million — with $179 million in “labor income” — and add 3,934 new jobs.

Additionally, according to the analysis, the sports venue could generate more than $6.2 million in revenues annually, create 59 jobs and deliver more than $2 million in labor income.

“Our community continues to be a well-known and diverse destination for sports tourism, and this most recent announcement by Diamond Baseball Holdings underscores that,” Mansour said in an announcement. “The team’s move to Columbus and the improvements to Golden Park that brings promise to bring a significant increase of economic activity, job opportunities and city revenue to the Chattahoochee Valley.”

However, J.C. Bradbury, a professor of economics, finance and quantitative analysis at Kennesaw State University, said the review “does not follow standard methods used by economists who study the economic impact of stadiums.”

“It uses a canned software package often employed by bureaucrats and developers seeking to prop up their pet projects with favorable projections,” Bradbury told The Center Square. “It does not take into account that stadium-related spending is almost entirely existing local spending reallocated from elsewhere in the community.

“Like most commissioned estimates, it is not a credible estimate of the impact that a new stadium would have on the local economy,” Bradbury added. “Economists who have studied the economic effects of stadiums consistently find they have little to no impacts on host communities. This is not a real objective study, and no one should take it seriously.”