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NFL Playoffs Mean Big Bucks for Host Communities

Author: Jim McCaul
Posted: January 09, 2016
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Across the country, football fans are gearing up for the NFL Playoffs. But fans in Cincinnati, Houston, Minneapolis and Washington, DC have an extra reason to be excited. Not only did their teams make the playoffs, but they’re hosting games this weekend. And that means big bucks for their communities!

In Minneapolis, experts are predicting the home playoff game will bring roughly $6 million into the local economy. How did they come up with this number? Well, they used history as a benchmark. In 2010, the University of Minnesota and Meet Minneapolis collaborated on an economic impact study for the Vikings home playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. The results showed that more than 25,000 visitors outside of the Twin Cities were in town for the game, and those visitors spent close to $6 million total on restaurants, hotels, retail and transportation.

On the flipside, the community of Green Bay, Wisconsin is reeling as the Packers will not be hosting the home playoff game their fans have come to expect. By not hosting a game, the community is expected to miss out on an estimated $14 million. "It's tough when you see those dollars slip," said Brad Toll, president of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's just been so common; I think we have kind of slipped into where you almost plan for it."

As sporting events become an increasingly important part of group business for DMOs, destinations must measure the economic impact of these events to make the case for growing this sector. This is the very reason that DMAI released the Sports Module of the Economic Impact Calculator in 2013. The Sports Module to the Event Impact Calculator allows DMOs to calculate the impact of sporting events on their destinations in terms of local taxes, jobs supported, and visitor spending, allowing DMOs to make the case to policymakers for the ongoing development and growth of the sports sector.

By locking up the top seed in their Conference, the Carolina Panthers now have the possibility of two home playoff games in January – a prospect that excites not only die-hard fans, but Charlotte hotels, bars and restaurants, too. Analysts estimate a home playoff game can have at least $5 million in economic impact. Yet, as often is the case, this impact was met with some skepticism. John Vrooman, a sports economics professor at Vanderbilt University, claims playoff games simply prioritize spending around Bank of America Stadium at the expense of the rest of the local economy.

But this is changing. Just as DMOs are using meetings and events to drive broader economic growth in their communities, innovative DMOs are also using sports to drive destination branding and spread the economic benefits beyond the stadium, and even beyond the hospitality industry. Greg Oates wrote a tremendous article for Skift showcasing how San Francisco is integrating the highest levels of sustainability, technology, inclusiveness, charity and local cuisine into Super Bowl 50, emphasizing its forward-thinking value proposition as a tourism destination.

So kudos to the fans and communities who have the privilege of welcoming visitors to their cities this weekend. As for the rest of us? I suggest you use the mantra that I have taken as a Cowboys fan since 1995. Next year is our year!