WMU News

Lecture series to examine the economics of sports

September 3, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- The first of six national speakers to give West Michigan audiences the score on how the world of sports impacts the economy will lecture at Western Michigan University Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Dr. Rodney D. Fort, professor of economics at Washington State University, will kick off the WMU Department of Economics' 35th annual guest lecture-seminar series. His free public talk on "Power Play: The Use and Abuse of Power in Pro Team Sports" is set for 3 p.m. in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall.

This 1998-99 series will focus on "The Economics of Sports: Winners and Losers." Speakers will examine a wide range of economic issues surrounding college and professional sports, including the economic impact of stadiums, the income levels of sports fans and the relations between collegiate sports financing and academics.

"This is a relatively new field in economics," says Dr. William S. Kern, associate professor of economics and director of this year's series. "It mirrors what is happening across the nation as personal income has grown and people choose to spend more on sports entertainment."

Kern says that Michigan, in particular, has been dealing with the economic impact of sports as cities such as Detroit look to new stadium construction as a means of revitalizing the urban area. The development of minor league baseball also has communities looking carefully at the local impact of sports facilities.

Fort will offer his views on power abuses in professional sports. He is the co-author of "Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports" and the upcoming "Pay Dirt 2: The Rest of the Business of Professional Team Sports" as well as "Diamonds are Forever: The Business of Baseball." His professional articles also have included pieces on sports salaries and the economic impact of stadiums.

Other speakers in this year's series and the topics they will address are:

"The Economic Impact of Professional Sports Teams and Stadiums: What's the Score?" with Dr. Robert A. Baade, the James D. Vail Professor of Economics at Lake Forest College, Wednesday, Oct. 7;

"Who Is Sitting in the Stands?: The Income Levels of Sports Fans" with Dr. John J. Siegfried, professor of economics at Vanderbilt University, Wednesday, Oct. 21;

"The Finances of Collegiate Sports: Relations Between Athletics, Academics and Finance" with Dr. Richard G. Sheehan, professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, Wednesday, Feb. 24;

"Stadium Mania and Economic Reality" with Dr. Andrew Zimbalist, the Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College, Wednesday, March 24; and

"A Level Playing Field? Sports and Discrimination" with Dr. Lawrence M. Kahn, professor of labor economics and collective bargaining, at Cornell University's New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Wednesday, April 7.

All lectures begin at 3 p.m. in Room 3508 Knauss Hall and are free and open to the public. Each scholar also will present a seminar for professional economists, faculty and graduate students. For more information, persons should contact Kern at (616) 387-5549.

The Department of Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences co-sponsor the series with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo. Assisting Kern in directing the lecture series this year are Dr. Wei Chiao Huang, WMU professor of economics, and Dr. George Erickcek of the Upjohn Institute.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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