Regency Furniture Stadium, a $28 million ballpark paid for largely with taxpayer dollars, opened in 2008 in Waldorf, Maryland. Ever since, it has been the home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Supporters forecast that the stadium would spur economic growth in the wealthy, rural community that surrounds it. Fifteen years later, the economic and demographic changes are mixed.
Using data from the American Community Survey, the Povich Center found that, by 2018, both tax revenues and population surrounding the ballpark nearly tripled, while rents increased 31%. Residents of the area briefly also became more educated, though that change has largely reversed. Income levels experienced a modest decline, while housing valuations fell sharply.
Measuring the impact of a baseball stadium is complicated. Regency Furniture Stadium opened amid the crash of the housing market and a global recession. Trends observed in Waldorf are not necessarily predictors for other minor league ballparks like the one scheduled to open in Hagerstown in spring 2024.
However, Waldorf could provide insight into economic change resulting from the new ballpark in Hagerstown. Supporters are predicting that the publicly funded, $70 million stadium will revitalize the city’s downtown district.
“I expect all four of those categories to go up: property values, property taxes, income among the residents and the education level of people moving into the downtown,” said Dan Spedden, president of the Hagerstown/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Here’s a further look at how economic and demographic conditions shifted near Regency Furniture Stadium, the last publicly financed, independent league baseball stadium built in Maryland:
The population soared, but the stadium was not the sole contributor of growth
Though the population near the site of Regency Furniture Stadium nearly tripled from 2008 to 2018, it still underperformed growth measured in Waldorf, suggesting the stadium was not the sole driver of population growth in the city.
Tax revenues near the stadium site nearly tripled
By 2018, properties near the stadium were generating $11.6 million in real estate tax revenue for the local government, nearly three times as much as the $4.1 million collected in 2008. Over that period, tax revenues near the stadium grew 4.5 times more than they did in the city and twice as much as a nearby community.
A more educated demographic moved near the stadium, but they did not stay
In the first five years after Regency Furniture Stadium opened, the number of individuals with a bachelor’s degree who lived near the stadium jumped nearly nine percentage points. Over the next five years, there was a decline of seven percentage points. By 2018, the growth in education levels near the stadium resembled that of the city and underperformed a neighborhood community.
Amid a housing crisis and global recession, property values declined dramatically
Housing prices plummeted after the crash of the housing market in 2008 triggered a global recession. From 2008 to 2018, valuations near Regency Furniture Stadium fell 26%, comparable to the decline citywide but worse than the decline in a nearby community.
Rents continued to climb in an expensive area
When Regency Furniture Stadium opened, the median rent price for a property near the stadium was $1,437, 15% higher than the median rent for the city. By 2018, rents had jumped nearly 31% to $1,875 and continued to outpace prices in the city and a nearby community.
The community surrounding the stadium remained wealthy
Regency Furniture Stadium was built in a community where the median household income was over $109,000, 25% higher than income levels for the city. Ten years later, households around the stadium experienced a modest decline in income but remained 13% wealthier than households in the city.
About this analysis
Data was obtained through the American Community Survey, a yearly supplement to the decennial Census that collects information about education, housing and the economy, among other variables. The area around Regency Furniture Stadium was defined as the census tract containing the stadium. Census tracts are the smallest geographic units available for studying the variables in this analysis. They are defined as subdivisions of counties that contain up to 8,000 people. Additional analysis was completed for the city and a bordering census tract with a similar demographic profile.
This story was produced by students at the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and distributed by Capital News Service, a nonprofit, student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.