Hopefully, Pele is returning to play for the newest version of the New York Cosmos. Assuming the 72-year-old legend won't be hitting the field, though, it's unlikely that Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos' optimistic assessment of the possible economic impact of the new team's home games at Hofstra University will pan out.
The introduction of a North American Soccer League team is good news for the county, even if revenue comes in lower than hoped. But the fact that the comptroller's office issues projections presented in a skewed manner is a problem, and it happens as much with budgets and surpluses as with soccer revenue guesswork.
Maragos' news release on the subject shouted "Nassau County businesses will see up to $19 million in economic activity." But read further and you see that the figure is based on selling 115 percent of stadium capacity at all 14 Cosmos home games, as well as an outrageous projection of what each attendee would spend in other county businesses before and after matches.
The $19 million is based on selling 15,000 tickets per game. According to the Cosmos website, the North American Soccer League website and Hofstra itself, however, the capacity at James M. Shuart Stadium is only 13,000. The bigger problem is that the eight teams in the NASL averaged attendance of only 3,800 per game last year.
Maragos' assessment also showed what the team's impact would be with lower attendance numbers, but in each case the figures are based on the idea that a family of four would spend about $360 at local businesses when attending a game. That's high for a minor league soccer jaunt.
It's not the role of the Nassau comptroller to act as a political booster, presenting budget balances and development plans in the most positive possible light. The re-election bids of Maragos and County Executive Edward Mangano, aside, what's called for are unspun facts.