Expert Analysis: University of New Haven

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University of New Haven Professor Gil Fried is an expert on stadium finance and management. He is currently the Chair of the Sports Management Department at the UNH's College of Business and has written several textbooks on Managing Sports Facilities and Sport Finance utilized at over 100 universities worldwide.

Professor Fried has shared his assessment and concerns regarding the sustainability of CRDA's proposed development plan for Dillon Stadium with Mayor Luke Bronin and Hartford City Council. Read his letter below.

From: Fried, Gil
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2018 9:43 AM
To: Luke Bronin, Glendowlyn Thames, Wildaliz Bermudez, TJ Clarke, Julio Concepcion, Larry Deutsch, John Gale, James Sanchez, R Jo Winch
Cc: Matt Kauffman, Jenna Carlesso, Carolyn Lumsden, Matt Pilon 
Subject: Dillon Stadium

Dear Mayor Bronin and Honorable Council Members,

My name is Gil Fried and I am a sport management professor at the University of New Haven (UNH).  I have been at UNH for over 19 years and chair the Sport Management Department.  I have taught sport facility management for over 23 years and sport finance for around the same number of years.  I have written the industry leading textbook in both the facility management area (Managing Sport Facilities, 3rd edition used at over 140 universities in the US and translated into several languages) and sport finance (Sport Finance, 3rd edition used at over 100 colleges in the US). 

At present, I am actually revising the 4th edition of the sport finance book and recently  completed a case study on the Colorado State University on how they utilized completely unrealistic projections and promises that have saddled the school with significant debt that will burden students (and taxpayers) for another 28 years.

I am writing in regards to the proposed plans for Dillon Stadium as detailed by the Hartford Courant.  We have placed interns and employees with various teams/facilities across the state for over 32 years so I have seen a lot - both good and bad. I do not know Bruce Mandell and wish him well.  However, I want to raise several issues that Hartford should consider. I am especially interested since I live in Hartford County (West Hartford).

1)      What is Mr. Mandell’s experience that qualifies him to operate a professional team, where so many have failed in Connecticut over the years?

2)      If Mr. Mandell is so confident in this effort he should agree to escrow a certain sum to cover future rent and other expenses. He should also agree to a penalty clause in any negotiated contract where he would pay a significant penalty if he leaves Hartford before the contract expires or forfeit money in an escrow account if he leaves early.

3)      No money should be spent until a contract is finalized.

4)      How was the $125k rent payment calculated?  There should be full transparency in how the number was calculated, by whom, and how much of the debt service is covered by such payments.

5)      How will the team attract 100,000 fans? That is a large number and would not be a reasonable estimate even during the team’s honeymoon period.  Attendance numbers should be compared with other minor league soccer teams who played in New Haven and Hartford last year. How much will be spent on advertising to draw such crowds (and is there a guarantee they will actually spend such funds)?  I would like to see an advertising budget, ticket pricing levels, costs calculation for parking/concessions, etc. Only through such detailed analysis can we compare what the team wants to do with reality based on some research we have done for the minor league soccer team in New Haven.

6)     The projection for hotels is significantly inflated and past history has shown very few people (besides athletes, coaches, and team officials) travel to minor league games and most stay at the cheapest hotels/motels possible to save money. I would like to see how many people travel to other games in the league. 

7)      Lastly, the job number estimates are significantly inflated. Most proposed projects mention significant job growth.  However, significant research indicates that a Triple A baseball team (the highest level under MLB) has the employment impact of less than a major chain store. If you look at all the stadiums and arenas in this state with a professional team - none of them have 45 full-time employees. Would the team hire full-time facility maintenance personnel or would the city have to pay?  Would the city also have to pay for mowing, chemical treatment, water bills, etc. Most jobs in this field are part-time and many pay just minimum wage unless the team utilizes unpaid interns to work the games - and such practice is illegal under federal law.

In conclusion, I support efforts to revitalize Dillon Stadium, but do not believe the investment of $10 million for a minor league soccer team, without more proof, is worth it.  There needs to be a lot more background research and significant breakdown in the numbers to prove their value. There also needs to be a much more thorough vetting process and contracts that protect the city and others rather than bending over backward for a team owner when the numbers and past history of similar projects all over the country show these stadium efforts rarely are successful.

I am more than willing to give any advice or assistance as might be requested from me or our students.

Sincerely,

Gil

TJ ClynchComment