Factoring Economic Impact of Events an Inexact Science

Article excerpt

In addition to the G-8 conference, the Southeast has hosted more than its share of big events over the years, from political conventions to large-scale trade shows to sporting events. These events, particularly high-profile national sports events, give officials plenty of cases to study how visiting crowds influence a local economy. But measuring their true economic impact presents some challenges.

The ultimate sports event in terms of dollars is the Summer Olympics, which boosted Georgia's economy by a whopping $5.1 billion between 1989 and 1996, when the games took place. University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Humphreys calculated the Olympics' impact to include related visitation over seven years, the formation of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and the cost of various major construction projects.

Four years later, the Super Bowl gave the Atlanta area an economic boost. The 2000 NFL championship pumped an estimated $292 million into the local economy, said Matt Garvey, director of communications for the Atlanta Sports Council.

Aside from the Olympics, the Super Bowl's impact is "far and away the biggest of any sporting event," Garvey noted. The weeklong event generates a lot of money for the local economy because the vast majority of fans are from out of town, and many arrive several days before the kickoff and spend lots of money.

"The biggest single driver for the local economy is out-of-state dollars," Garvey added, noting that the impact of a Falcons game is relatively small because the vast majority of ticket holders live in the area and would have spent money in the local economy in any event.

College football games also draw big crowds in the Southeast. The annual Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville is dubbed "the world's largest cocktail party." Citing informal estimates, the event attracts 50,000-60,000 people to the area for the weekend and adds $18 million-$25 million to the local economy, said Michael Sullivan, director of sports development for the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. …