PA Independent Fiscal Office takes aim at Pittsburgh Pirates’ miserly spending, says PA isn’t getting its money’s worth

10 July 2024- Today, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released studies on the economic impact of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies on their respective cities.

After reviewing the reports, Reps. Tim Bonner (R-Mercer/Butler) and Jim Gregory (R-Blair) say the Pirate’s organization needs to step up to the plate to ensure that its fans and taxpayers across the Commonwealth get the return on their investment they deserve.

In the early 2000s, the Pittsburgh Pirates received $75 million in state grant funding for the land and construction of PNC Park. Allegheny County tax funding amounted to approximately $147 million. The Pirates’ organization contributed approximately $40 million for a total cost of $260 million. In exchange for its investment, the public is entitled to economic benefits in their local economy, the representatives said.

In 2030, the current lease on PNC Park will run out, leaving economic and lease renewal decisions to be made by both the Pirates and the Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority.

While the Pirates represent some benefit to the local economy, they fall proportionately behind their cross-state counterparts, the Philadelphia Phillies, in many economic factors:

  • Pirates drive $254 million in 2023 net direct spending; the Phillies drive $525 million.
  • Pirates drive $546 million in direct spending; the Phillies drive $970 million.
  • Pirates support approximately 3,000 jobs; the Phillies support 5,450.
  • Pirates generate $22 million in tax dollars for the state; the Phillies generate $45 million.

Even with the contrast of population size taken into consideration, the differences of financial output from the Phillies compared to the Pirates is vastly different.

As part of these reports, the IFO reviewed the relationship between team payroll, wins and attendance. Unsurprisingly, the IFO found a positive relationship between both team payroll and wins, as well as wins and fan attendance. 

Over the past 30 years, the Pirates have had the worst record in the National League and the second worst record in all of baseball. They have only had four winning seasons in those 30 years. During this time, no team has spent less on free agency signings than the Pirates.

It is past time for the Pirates to become more competitive. Pirates’ ownership has seen the value of the team explode to $1.32 billion according to Forbes Magazine. Revenue sharing among the teams and from television partners has greatly increased the Pirates’ profit margins. Yet, the Pirates’ payroll regularly ranks in the bottom five in baseball.

The reports also include findings determining that if the Pirates were to increase their win total on average by just three games, the team would generate an estimated additional $76 million in total fan spending, of which $31 million would occur outside of PNC Park and directly support the local economy.

The findings of the IFO’s reports show the kind of economic impact that a sustained, reliably successful Pirates team can have on the local economy. When taxpayers are asked to invest in stadiums, the taxpayers are made a silent partner in the operations of the organization, according to Bonner and Gregory.

“I’ve waited to see this data for as long as anybody to show what we thought was true is real and now quantified for taxpayers, hospitality businesses, critics of the 1999 stadium funding deal and supporters,” Gregory said. “Philly will be pleased, and Yinzers will point out the Bucs need to do better.”

“If the taxpayers are going to put money into the stadium, the Pirates need to also invest in PNC Park, as well as put a worthy product on the field,” said Bonner. “Taxpayers deserve more than the bare minimum, and the report demonstrates how sustained on-field success can increase fan attendance, which is how a stadium drives the local economy.”  

To read the IFO’s reports for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies, visit http://www.ifo.state.pa.us/.