Lakers parade opponents are asking all the wrong questions
Even in Los Angeles, not everybody is happy with the Lakers' NBA championship.
Reports surfaced that a Lakers parade would cost $1 million, a stat later revised to $2 million. The city and team agreed to split the amount, but people are still asking a big question; How can the city justify taking on a frivolous expenditure when the budget is a wreck and employees face layoffs and mandatory furloughs?
The mayor is scrambling to find private donors to support the event, which is an enterprising solution that should please everybody. But the underlying anger seems a bit misguided. On face value, we should be upset when a wealthy private institution might benefit from public funds during an economic crisis. But what happens when the public has benefited mightily from a wealthy private institution?
Forbes values the Lakers franchise at $584 million. What does this big business mean to the city of Los Angeles?
According to the NBA, the Lakers have the league's most popular merchandise. It's sold in stores all over town. We could track down those receipts, but how do you measure the economic impact of somebody selling an unlicensed T-shirt on the street corner? And what about a player who pays property taxes on an expensive estate? It obviously doesn't end there.
Maybe we could outsource the Clippers, but the economic stimulus created by the Lakers in the last ten years has been irreplaceable.
Aren't the Lakers the cornerstone that rebuilt downtown L.A.? Would we have a Staples Center? And if not, would they still have built L.A. Live? Think about businesses that have come as a result ... ESPN's new West Coast operations, the Ritz Carlton, and about a dozen new eateries. They all pay taxes. They employ (or will employ) cooks, busboys, waiters, hostesses, bouncers, bellhops, concierges, valets, janitors, maids, plumbers, electricians, engineers ... you get the idea.
According to the Los Angeles Sports Council, the 2005 World Badminton Championships had a $15 million economic impact on the region (they were held in Anaheim). The Lakers are arguably the greatest franchise in NBA history. There's no comparing shuttlecocks to basketballs.
A single Lakers game generates some $2 million in gate receipts, which excludes the robust secondary market that employs both legitimate resellers and some less savory characters walking around outside the gates. Multiply that by 41 home games.
Sure, the Lakers keep most of that revenue, part of $191 million they take in every year, but it's not all going into the Buss trust. Somebody has to pay the bills, and the Lakers have quite a few.
Then there are secondary markets, tertiary markets, and so on.
Pricey tickets mean pricey parking, and another $20 or more per car for the lot. Have you ever noticed the sign that reads "city and country taxes included"? As for the leftover, it doesn't stay in the lot owner's pocket. I don't know how much guys get paid to stand in front of a driveway and wave an orange flag, but I certainly don't know anybody who would do it for free.
Add it all up, and I'm not convinced that $1 million is an unreasonable price to placate this economic giant at the pinnacle of its success (i.e., selling more jerseys and nachos than usual).
I'm not suggesting that every company worth at least a half-billion dollars deserves a parade. But when people start selling Northrop Grumman T-shirts on the street corner, putting CB Richard Ellis flags on their cars, and flocking to sports bars to watch the latest sales figures from KB Home, then maybe they'll have earned one, too.
-- Adam Rose
Photo: The Lakers parade will go forward with stars like Kobe Bryant, left, and Derek Fisher, seen here exiting a plane that probably helped the local economy somehow. Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo.